Is Tertiary Education Worth the Cost?

 

If you want a certain level of Education, University might be on your mind. For many people, university is the assumed path to success. You attend school; college and then some choose post-secondary education for the hopes of a stellar career. Many people, myself included, are guilty of not considering alternate paths.

Many times we think, if we want a credential that will financially benefit us for the rest of our life. We sit and analyze the investment of time and money put in a university education with the evaluating the return on investment. To me an education is extremely important, and I always knew I wanted a university education. However, I never questioned whether if that was the only path I wanted to take. It was a path set out by society, and so it was the path I took without a second thought.

The university path is very personal, it might not be intended for everyone. For me university was an amazing learning experience, not only did I learn academically but it helped me mature as an adult. The university experience can be exciting or overwhelming. With everyone high on their first taste of independence, your first year may turn out to be a bit wild, but chances are you will love it.

Tuition rates in Canada have increased recently. According to Statistics Canada, average undergraduate tuition fees increased by 3.2 per cent last year and 3.3 per cent the year before. The average undergraduate tuition fee paid last year in the province of Ontario was $6191, although the numbers may be higher in other provinces in Canada. Fee also vary from program to program, dentistry and pharmacy can cost many times the average. In addition you have to factor in residence and meal costs if you have decided to go away for university. If you do decide to stay at home, then add in transportation costs along with those overpriced books. Many factors help students decide which university they would like to attend. A helpful way to help you decide can be by reviewing university rankings, which breaks down universities in terms of program, accommodation, student social experience and most importantly future employment opportunities. There is no doubt that attending university becomes a huge upfront investment. But I believe the personal growth from a higher education provides vast intangible gains, many students want to measure the costs against the financial benefits it will provide over the lifetime.

Tony Eder, an executive director the University of Victoria says “”As the cost of education rises and as the markets become more competitive, universities should rightly be challenged to demonstrate that what they are providing does have that tangible benefit after graduation.”

The Hidden Benefits of University

Regardless of what you want to major in and receive the chosen degree, experiencing four to five years in post secondary education can give you a wide range of skills that will be useful in various aspects of life not only in future careers but life as a whole.

A lot of these skills are known as transferable skills, and they include a range of abilities that can unleash a lot of future possibilities in terms of future employment. Some of these transferable skills include, team work, time management, public speaking, organizational skills, decision making skills, leadership skills, effective verbal and written communication. Today these skills are highly valued by employers in any industry, I believe university prepares you well with these skills and provides a student a better change to integrate into the job market.

I will give you a perfect example about myself, when I entered university I was extremely shy and class presentation’s made me tremble. I knew it was one of my biggest weakness, and I knew I had to work on it. The first two years I struggled with class presentations, I would go up to present and just have a difficult time focusing and presenting. This resulted in poor marks; I knew I had to fix this soon. Therefore, I practiced, and sought advice constantly from my professors and peers. During my senior years, I began to see improvement and soon it all become natural. Public speaking and networking is a huge aspect of my career today and I truly believe that attending university truly helped me develop excellent communication skills.

Will a degree increase my chances of getting employed?

It is quite certain but not necessary that having a university degree will work to your advantage and may increase your employability prospects. A post secondary education may not guarantee you a job, however a lot of organizations today require some sort of post secondary experience with your credentials. An undergraduate degree has decreased its value, since many people today have attained a bachelor’s degree. Many individuals are now specializing and obtaining designations in their specific industries to stand out. Many students’ lives have drastically changed after obtaining their Masters. A Masters program does not only provide you with the essential education, but various opportunities -such as, an internship for a well-known organization, networking opportunities, and allowing you to participate in an exchange program in another country.

My advice to for all those who are enrolled, whether it is undergraduate studies or a Masters, enjoy the journey as much as you can. Learn, network and expand your mind as much as you can, it goes by way too fast.

With 360-degree Tech Enhancements in Learning, Adaptability is the Key for Recruitment.

With technology in learning and recruitment, businesses have entered a sphere of border-free skill force. For businesses, it means, removing the constraints of geography, to access the universal talent pool. This requires businesses to adapt technology and mindset change.

The first step in a candidate’s career is defined by educational qualifications. However, there’s more to an individual than that, and firms are gradually figuring that out. However, it’s proven tough to identify the core skills of individuals, which is precisely why several companies re-assign a lion’s share of their employees to multiple projects, before even figuring there core strengths, hence lengthening the ‘due process’.

Recruitment strategy for any service-based firm is based on a client’s project requirements, while for product-based firms, recruits need to contribute to enhance the customer experience – whether it be the software/product design and development or the supply chain at manufacturing hubs. Irrespective, it is critical to figure the job fitment, early on, for effective workforce.

Adaptable Technology Integration is Key for Enterprise Entities and e-Learning

Business processes are going through a constant phase of shuffling and reshuffling for their adaptive technology implementations. This is evident in the way they function and tweak legacy corporate setups to suit a world where technology is able to revolutionise business operations.

Conclusively, CEOs and CIOs need to choose solutions that will work best within their own systems and integrate bits and pieces of the process. Adaptability is key. This comes handy even when software or a manufacturing hub goes through a phase of rapid scaling. For an optimal scaling environment, there has to be vertical tech implementation – components and entities working together with technology end-to-end to achieve higher ROIs. It all makes business sense to, thus, eliminate redundant components and let go of manually driven systems.

Thus, the willingness for firms to opt for tech integration within a system is driven by the requirement. Specific needs drive this direction.

When firms choose a Sales CRM, it is supposed to fulfill the needs of the virtual team and help the collaboration efforts for on-site individuals too. For recruitment and learning, in particular, when they choose an online assessment platform, recruiters seek to move beyond geographical constraints to select the most aptly suited talent pool.

An always-on world wherein core internal business systems are accessible from anywhere on the globe, adapting to changing supply chain processes and client/customer expectations – that’s the future of technology. Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality are set to take this a step further. While it’s evident that customer experiences are bound to change with VR, which brings brick-and-mortar shops to the living room, and brings life-like connectivity. The professional architecture at workplaces is set to change too. Designers and software developers already work in tandem, even from arbitrary locations worldwide. Come VR, and one can predict the interaction and seamless collaborations that will thrive in recruitment, training, and project allocation. AI, on the other hand, will bring in machine learning to minimize human interference.

This is the 360 degree enhancement the industry is taking strides towards. And on the other end of the spectrum, educational systems are adapting too!

Profiles Matter: Academic, Professional and Social, Going Above and Beyond Educational Credentials

A decade ago, all that mattered was the career graph of the potential job candidate and their academic qualifications. Their education justified the foundation of his/her credentials, and their experience justified the ability of honing and implementing existing skills and real-world problem solving. However, with the advent of a more connected era, the indicators for someone’s social behaviour are already present in the virtual domain. An employee doesn’t just utilize his/her skill-sets to work and keep a business at an advantage. There are two aspects of life that they have to lead – professional aspects, and, personal aspects. Characteristics and behavioural patterns from one of these aspects of life is mostly, if not always, destined to seep into the other and vice versa. Most businesses have thus started siphoning the social profiles of job candidates through their own funnels. Social media does not only serve as a platform for users to share their lifestyle with the entire world, but has also made their lives transparent in its entirety.

There are functional areas which specifically require a great online social profile, but then there are professions that hardly have anything to do with the social platforms. With positive workplace behaviour, proactivity, and readiness for mutual collaborations being essential traits for legacy and modern business setups alike, sometimes it’s easier to predict a job seeker by their activities evident on, say, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Quora, and LinkedIn, among others. While a positive influence on these platforms might or might not be essential for the role at hand, a negative influence definitely raises a red flag. This, combined with the need for social adeptness in today’s world, is enough for companies to consider this aspect when selecting the perfect individual(s) for the job at hand. Artificial Intelligence and adaptable machine-learning algorithms will track these social indicators in the future.

Anticipating the future and implementing a more cohesively driven hiring strategy is just part of the ‘job’ done for businesses that settle with no compromises when it comes to the skills of the individuals that it hires. The connected era, is now; and the future is one with adaptable technologies driven by IOT.

The Expensive Cost of Cheap Fast Food

In the age of “On-demand”, people want everything on demand and as quickly as possible. Even food and meals have not been spared – people want their food to be ready much faster now. Unsurprisingly, we are now seeing the omnipresence of “Fast Food” and “Instant”/”Ready to Eat” food – foods which can be prepared much more quicker than proper meals. Part of this is possible due to the composition of these foods – loaded with chemicals –or prepared by unhealthy methods (deep frying, excessive salt, etc.). The appeal of fast foods lie in the fact that they are more economic, require less effort to prepare, and some would point, more delicious.

Not only have these meals increasingly demanded, people are now spending lesser time consuming their meals. Consequently, we are seeing a rise in the number of people afflicted by health related problems, such as diabetes and obesity. Unsurprisingly, these diseases not only have an impact on people’s health, but also incur cost on a country’s economy – through healthcare and lost productivity.

The Industry

One does not need to look too far back to understand the enormity of the global fast food industry. In 2016, the entire industry’s revenue was close to US$540 billion, and is expected to reach US$690 billion in 2022, with a CAGR of 4.2%. The growth in demand is driven by people who want the food to be prepared quickly (and subsequently consumed quickly). There is also an increasing reluctance amongst people to cook food at home (time constraints due to priorities, the effort/hassle of preparing, etc.) which turns them towards convenient fast food options.

Fast food outlets, too, fuel this growth by offering various delicious (albeit unhealthy) dishes on their menus, as well delivery to the customer’s doorstep. In addition, due to the lucrative nature of the industry, many new players are entering the market, often with similar offerings to others. This has resulted in a price war amongst the sellers, and each one is trying to undercut the competition by offering the dishes at a cheaper rate, further luring customers to buy. And although there is an increasing awareness about the perils of consuming such fast foods (and a resultant slight decrease in demand), the overall industry is still expected to grow.

The problems

Before one delves into the problems, one must understand the nature of fast foods, its composition and preparation methods – all of which will elucidate why and to what extent they create health problems for the consumers. In addition to the wide array of chemicals (used for flavoring, colouring, and preservation), the usual suspects are High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS, substitute for sugar), Monosodium Glutamate (MSG, substitute for salt), and hydrogenated oil (chemically-processed cheaper oil) used for frying and dairy substitute.

The problem with all this is that there is little organic/unadulterated ingredients used, diminishing the actual nutritional value of the food. The aforementioned substitutes and chemicals only add flavour and make the preparation process much simpler. A study of 74 samples of fast food items from 35 countries found them to contain severely high levels of industrially produced trans-fatty acids, which significantly contribute to obesity; a research cited in the study found a 30% increase in abdominal fat (an indicator of obesity) in monkeys being fed fast foods. Another study in Singapore found that consuming fast food at least twice or more times a week can increase the risk of developing diabetes by 27%, despite being less likely to be smokers and being more physically active.

Blood sugar levels mg/dL mmol/L
Low less than 65 less than 3.6
Normal – Optimal 65-100 3.6 – 5.5
Good Marginal 101 – 135 5.6 – 7.5
At Risk >137 >7.6

Figure 1: A blood sugar levels chart for non-fasting. Frequent consumption of HFCS pushes the glucose higher, which first creates the risk of high blood sugar, and if not treated and rises further, diabetes


The Costs

A 2010 study in the US analyzed the costs of obesity on the economy. The annual direct medical costs associated with obesity was estimated to be close to US$150 billion, while the productivity costs were close to US$66 billion. The study also estimated the indirect cost of obesity on transportation (increased fuel consumption, quicker wear and tear of vehicles and roads) to be approximately US$3.5 billion.

In the same vein, an extensive study in 2011 by Danish researchers recorded the actual cost of diabetes on their country and shed light on how indirectly, society incurs a cost due to the consumption of fast foods. Taking into account all the patients registered in their healthcare system diagnosed with the condition, they discovered a few exorbitant figures: the healthcare cost alone was close to EUR 1 billion (EUR 732 million for primary and secondary care services, and EUR 256 million for pharmaceutical drugs). Nursing costs were around Eur 1.9 billion, and most importantly, lost productivity of diabetic employees was estimated at Eur 1.77 billion. The annual social cost of diabetes in Denmark was a staggering Eur 4.67 billion in 2011.

It would be incorrect, however, to conclude that the costs associated with diabetes and obesity are entirely due to fast foods (other factors, such as genetics, can cause such problems). Nevertheless, these studies give us a decent idea of how fast food can set back an economy, given that fast foods are establishing themselves as the primary causes of such diseases.

The fight back

There is a sanguine outlook to the future, however, as countries have now recognized the problems arising from fast food consumption and are implementing initiatives to minimize the impact. Mexico and the UK have imposed’ sugar tax’ on items with high sugar content (including HFCS). Denmark levied a ‘fat tax’ on food items which contained more than permitted levels of fats, for about a year in 2012 (it was cancelled due to industrial lobbying). Such policies have shown promise in altering people’s demand for fast foods, as the taxes will make them more expensive than before, and making them eat better. In addition, governments are raising awareness about diseases such as obesity and diabetes, and warning people about the harms of fast food consumption.

We live in a time now where everything is expected to be instantaneous, even foods. Thus came the advent of fast foods. Quickly prepared, quickly consumed. And although they are cheap, convenient and delicious (all which explain the ever-increasing demand), they come at a cost. Laced with chemicals and alternatives to common ingredients, fast foods are sources of various diseases – amongst which diabetes and obesity are most prevalent. These diseases not only ail the person afflicted, but also levy a cost on the entire country’s (for that matter, the worlds) economy. Consequently, various approaches are being implemented around the world to tackle the problems posed by fast foods. It may be an uphill battle, but there is still hope that the threats of fast foods can be dealt with emphatically.

Saying Goodbye to the Salon, and Hello to a Sustainable Beauty Routine


You need to treat your body right, and that goes beyond what you put into it. What you put on your hair and skin is just as important to looking and feeling great. But professional hair and beauty treatments are expensive, and sometimes they can even be harmful to both you and the environment. If you’re trying to make a switch and try and live more sustainably, then there are a host of DIY beauty hacks out there. While some things should be left to the professionals, and some occasions call for a splurge, some things are simple enough to do at home. As much as your stylist might not want you to know it, you don’t need to break the budget and spend on brand names and ‘revolutionary formulas’ to have a kick ass beauty routine. These beauty secrets are tried and tested, and guaranteed to help you say goodbye to the salon!

While most of us would imagine a high-end facial will leave our skin feeling refreshed, dewy and soft, that isn’t always the case. Some of the facial creams and skin treatments in use by top stylists and celebrities have been proven to have dangerous and unpleasant side-effects for some skin types. Chemical peels and laser treatments can burn delicate tissue, and microdermabrasion can thin the skin causing discoloration. Many dermatologists have expressed concern about the harshness of some of the ‘super facials’ on the market today. If you haven’t yet discovered the secret of an at-home facial, then you’ve been missing out on the perfect weeknight pick-me up. Most of the beneficial ingredients in those expensive serums they slather over your face at the spa can also be found in everyday items you probably have lying around your kitchen. Olive oil, honey, brown sugar, avocado and bananas. These all-natural ingredients are bursting with the anti-oxidants and moisture rich proteins that the top end brands synthesize for their chemical treatments.

Exfoliating and moisturising from head to toe is super important, and while you can pay someone for the service of scrubbing off your dead skin cells, there is nothing to stop you whipping up a shower scrub or moisturizing body wrap at home too. Coffee grounds are an excellent exfoliant, and you have the bonus of not having to worry about whether or not the microbeads in your scrub are biodegradable.

Home-made hair treatments are also sinfully easy and worth the time and effort. In fact, there’s loads of evidence to suggest that a lot of the ingredients in professional hair treatments can actually damage your hair! Once hyped as the absolute must treatment for smooth and silky locks, keratin treatments have been deemed a potential health hazard by the FDA in America. The concern centres around formulas containing formaldehyde or methylene glycol —both known carcinogens. The other negative aspect to these types of treatments is the temperature that’s required to get the desired effect. It’s well documented that heat damages hair, but effective keratin treatments often involve heating hair at temperatures over 200 degrees Celsius, which can leave many hair types in a damaged state. Coconut oil and apple cider vinegar are both excellent natural hair treatments, and you can even make your own hot oil treatments with a little bit of coconut and sesame oil and some essential oils for fragrance!

You don’t always need to visit the dentist to perfect those pearly whites either. It’s never been easier to do your own teeth whitening at home thanks to the massive range of oral care products on the market! Investing in a teeth whitening kit or a sonar toothbrush to use at home is an easy way keep your smile stunning in between your regular check-ups, and save yourself some money. Eco-friendly options for teeth whitening are everywhere these days, like activated charcoal or strawberry tooth scrubs, and of course trusty old bi-carb soda. None of which are particularly harmful for your wallet or the environment.

The harmful and toxic chemicals used in professional nail polishes and nail application are so serious the New York Times wrote an expose on the problem. If you’re serious about saving cash and the planet, then fake nails and gel nails are definitely something you should ditch. You don’t have to give up on pampering your hands altogether though. YouTube is full of tutorials that teach you how to use every day items to help keep your nails looking glamourous. Even better news if you happen to be a vegan, you don’t need to keep praying for manicure miracles, there are a bunch of vegan friendly nail polishes on the market today like Zoya, Pacifica and Jin Soon, bringing you every shade of the rainbow – cruelty free.

Making the switch to an eco-friendly and sustainable beauty routine is headache free if you follow these tips. Take advantage of what mother nature’s already provided to help you save money on your regular salon appointments and stay in control of what chemicals you’re putting on your body and into the earth.

The Disruption of Modern Day Marketing Machinery

For a few years now social media marketing has become almost a necessity for most consumer facing businesses. In the beginning it was perceived as a free medium for brands to communicate with their customers. Over time, it has shed this perception. In fact, large brands are spending substantial amounts of money in this space. We have already got to a point where calling social media marketing, an alternate channel is redundant. It has become the norm.

As soon as social networks began to offer sponsored services, the industry saw a massive boom. The entry barriers were low. Brands of all sizes had the ability to experiment with the platform, looking for the right mix of content and media buying to bring maximum value. What worked well, was the fact that social media ad buying seemed to have a greater ability to measure its outcomes. More so it was possible to track user data all the way to a desired action ie. Signing up for a service or making a purchase. This kind of data was un heard of for marketers.

With the industry booming, this transparency began to get murky. Brands began to feel uneasy about how their considerable ad spends were allocated. Procter & Gamble and Unliever, two of the biggest spender in the space, made significant cuts to their online spends. P&G’s Digital Finance chief Jon Moeller was clear when he talked about the cuts in digital spending. The cuts themselves were in excess of a 100 million USD. “What it reflected was a choice to cut spending from a digital standpoint where it was ineffective, where either we were serving bots as opposed to human beings or where the placement of ads was not facilitating the equity of our brands,” He said. There seemed to be a problem in the value these ads were delivering. Social media marketing was beginning to slip into the same pitfalls as traditional mass market advertising. The premium costs of specialized targeting and user data were now under the scanner.

The larger corporations are only part of the picture when it comes to social media marketing. Because of the low entry barrier small businesses across the world embraced it wholeheartedly. The digital agency became a handy tool to make up for any lack of expertise. While all the large syndicated advertising firms had digital wings, smaller niche agencies popped up dealing with companies with smaller ad spends. Until today, these businesses are seeing value, continuing to explore and experiment . Following some basic guidelines they have managed to build great engagement with their consumers.

Brands that did not have millions of dollars to invest in their marketing campaigns, still found innovative ways to build highly engaged communities online. With social networks themselves encouraging content that drives engagement, marketers capable of creating appealing content see a lot of value from their online presence.

The advent of this high stakes race for social media success has led to a host of subsidiary industries. Influencer marketing quickly became one of the most sought after trends in the industry. Traditionally a brand ambassador would lend their image to a brand allowing it to position itself a certain way. That Association has been replaced by short term endorsements and mentions for a variety of products by social media influencers; People or organizations that have built out a large following for their own digital presence. As a trend it only seems to be gaining momentum.

In the larger scheme of things, social media has a few distinct advantages over most other marketing channels. It engages a user more regularly and for larger periods of time than almost any other channel. It is built specifically for the ever shortening attention spans of the population. It is more often than not, free of geographic and demographic boundaries. Content pushed across it finds its audience across the world with ease. For a marketer, this could potentially mean the ability to target and segment their customers more efficiently than ever before.

There is no questioning the fact that social media marketing is going to be a part of the advertiser’s handbook for years to come. It changes rapidly but in essence as long as people continue to engage with content on social networks, advertisers will find ways to reach them. The large organizations running these networks are constantly bringing new tools to the fore. A set of toys that allow marketers to experiment with a number of strategies. Data will drive marketing decisions like never before. It is however important to note, that like with television before it, social media is just a new channel. True success with marketing here, like anywhere else is still based on very simple principles. Understanding your customer and creating content that they relate to.

The Price of Beauty through the Ages

Sparkly, luxurious and elegant. Diamonds are marketed to the masses as the jewel of love and prestige, but it bears a less than glamorous history. It first came into significance in India, while its name comes from the Greek word, ‘adamao’ meaning the hardest substance known to man.

Once reserved for aristocracy and royalty, the discovery of diamonds in South Africa made it more commonly available. While it is still seen as a sign of wealth, it signifies something entirely for those mining it.

In the mines, southwest of Democratic Republic of Congo, children sift through the dirt and gravel in hopes of finding a shiny gemstone which would ensure them a decent meal. According to the times, Zacharie Mamba, who is the head of Tshikapa’s mining division has been quoted saying it is a scandal how they have so much wealth but are wrought with poverty. The precious stones bring nothing but misery to the land that it is harvested from.

Many Americans have chosen to take a stand against diamonds which were mined unethically. However, it is not the best solution. The money the miners make from the diamonds are the only source of income they have, and if faced with a boycott, they will have no choice but to starve.

The Kimberly Process issues passports to the precious stones, ensuring that the diamonds mined are not conflict diamonds, or also known as blood diamonds. However, it does not discount the diamonds which are mined by underaged miners or those that are essentially stolen. In 2008, the Zimbabwean army killed more than 200 miners over a major diamond deposit and as rebels were not involved, those diamonds were certified to be eligible for trade.

While the certification scheme was implemented to prevent conflicts in the diamond trade, there were two main issues with it. The first is that the system does not recognise worker exploitation and disregards the conditions of how the mine is won, whether or not it affects any human rights or populations.

Secondly, ” a Kimberley Process certificate does not apply to an individual stone but to a batch of rough diamonds which are then cut and shipped around the world. Without a tracking system, this is where the trail ends”, thus there is no way to verify where the diamond is originally from.

Aside from the general diamond mining industry, there is a whole other market involved in possessing and auctioning rare diamonds such as the pink argyle diamonds. These auctions are closed off to the public and only a select few are invited to participate in Rio Tinto’s Pink Diamond Tender. The popularity of pink diamonds are increasing, although there is no known other known sources of pink diamonds in the world other than Rio Tinto’s Argyle mine.

The most expensive diamond ring ever sold is called “The Pink Star“, and was auctioned off at $71 million in Hong Kong back in April but the most expensive diamond sits around $300 million. It is the largest rough gem-quality diamond called “The Cullinan Diamond“.

Coloured diamonds are rarer than clear diamonds as it is said only one out of ten thousands mined are naturally coloured. The colours come from the environment of the diamond as it is forming. While it is to be confirmed, scientists think that the rarest red and pink diamonds are formed due to intense heat and pressure. Blue and greys are formed due to a the chemical boron is present. It merges with the crystal and absorbs the other colours in the spectrum, leaving only the cool hue. Green diamonds are produced by naturally occurring radiation, hydrogen caused violets and purples and nitrogen is responsible for yellow diamonds.

Despite the paradox of value, the industry for diamonds are still booming. However, despite what popular culture has to say about millennials, they are a generation much more invested in ethics than ever before seen. According to reports by CNBC and The Independent, millennials have “turned their backs on diamonds”, preferring to ensure whatever they put their money to is benefitting the communities mining the diamonds. They are wary about environmental impact, and aware that what they buy, reflects who they are.

Furthermore, perhaps the younger generation is much more conscious of the fact that commercialised diamonds are not worth as much as they are sold for. A ring sold at retail price is more likely to be marked up a hundred percent to twice as much. It is merely a piece of jewellery for show that the groom is capable of providing for his future family as he is more than able to make such an empty purchase.

It has also been suggested that the use of diamond engagement rings was for women to collect on their unfaithful or dishonourable intendeds as diamonds were perceived as an item of high value. Since the concept of having to stay pure till marriage is no longer practiced, more and more milennials have decided to forgo the diamond ring and use that money for travel instead.

The Societal Importance of Fashion in 2017

Fashion, a word synonymous with superfluous; or at least, it is how the world chooses to view it. Yet there are countless magazines and brands that counteract this. People clamber all over each other for the latest trends, be it technology or apparel. Fashion has become such a large part of society that there are magazines and websites dedicating to dissecting trends and predicting them; trying to stay on top of the next big thing is akin to being intuitive and relevant.

One of the main faces of fashion is the prestige behind a brand. It is a tool for the wealthy and those who aspire to become a part of the elite, to showcase their importance and to stand out.

Imagine all the couture brands one has been exposed to, despite not being a fashion enthusiast. Kanye West’s Yeezys are iconic in part due to their extraordinarily steep price tag which has been called an “obscene amount”. Why do people buy into these fads? Because they can. Because it reflects on their spending power and in turn, their capability to splurge.

However, it is more than just a part of consumerism, there are those who, being aware of the fast and environmentally unsustainable industry, have decided to create a new culture based on fashion’s twin sister: style.

A niche of influencers who range from fashion bloggers, instagrammers to youtubers have started to utilize their numbers on social media to encourage change. CutiePieMarza, an English youtuber, started a movement with her online counterparts by uploading videos of them swapping out their garments and labeling it Haulternative.

There are other methods of upcycling or repurposing old attire. Many bloggers take advantage of their creativity and sewing skills to teach people how to transform an old men’s t-shirt into stylish dresses or duffle bags into an eco-friendly brand. There are even articles on how to save ruined beloved clothing. Some more entrepreneurial individuals have taken it upon themselves to create accessories out of nature, such as crowns made from crystals, seashells and flowers.

There are many who might see an outfit merely as protection, but it speaks about who you are. Someone who dresses well is more likely to be of good breeding than someone who is constantly in tatters. No matter how much we try to not judge a book by its cover, truth is, it is part of first impressions. When you see a well groomed person, you will think about how they must know how to take proper care of themselves. Someone who is put together and stylish shows their meticulousness. An individual dressed to the nines in designer apparel must have had a well upbringing or is extremely capable, both factors being beneficial to any potential employer or collaborator. A person who has a very individualistic style boasts that person’s creativity. Above all, the degree to how one cares for their image shows the world how much respect they have for themselves and in effect, how they will do things to the best of their ability to reflect their best qualities.

No matter how shallow it may seem, fashion is and always will be, an integral part of human culture and arts. With the rise of social media, it has blurred the lines between marketing and lifestyle. Allowing feeds to be a curation of fashion and giving rise to the importance of clothing.

The apparel of industry is challenging. It is especially hard for designers, as the only way to stay on top is to constantly create something new or revamping old looks into something fresh. Consumers are always on the lookout for something unique to stand out, especially in an age where likes and followers can become a person’s bread and butter. A society that encourages fame for fortune, and in effect, had given way to a world of noise.

Some might choose to go through their life without giving it too much thought, but it did not rise to such significance by being unimportant. There will always be those who try their best to debunk the importance of fashion, it remains one of the many wonders of humankind. What you put on your back says more about you than you know. Furthermore, psychologists have confirmed that self-affirmation is important for a healthy state of mind. And as the saying goes, when you look good, you feel good.

Why Car Dealership May Soon Become a Thing of the Past

Digitalization of transaction is beginning to hit every industry, even the most traditional and complicated ones like automotive. As the demographic of consumers continue to change and technological advances continue to develop, there are bound to be more convenient ways of buying a car in the near future, ones that eliminates all the previous complications. Current consumers are discontent with the car-buying process and demand a significant change.

A survey from Autotrader shows the discontent surrounding the current car-buying process by revealing that only 17 percent out of 4,002 respondents prefer the current car-buying process. The rest demands significant changes in the way they purchase cars, especially in four major parts, which is test drive, deal structuring, financing paperwork and service phases.

When it comes to deal structuring and financing paperwork, in particular, the preferred solution is to shift the process online. There could be a change to the notoriously lengthy negotiations of the past, as over half of the people surveyed want the opportunity to negotiate online, and 45% would like to remain anonymous until they lock in the deal structure. As for financing paperwork, more than 70% of the people surveyed want to complete the credit application and paperwork online. Besides the benefit of saved time and energy at the dealers, doing paperwork online would also impose less pressure to consumers, the survey revealed.

Moreover, an automotive survey conducted by Accenture shows that most consumers are no longer interested in the classic car dealership transaction. Up to 10,000 people across eight countries were asked about their car-buying experience, and most of them say that they now conduct their own little online research before purchase. Furthermore, 75% of them would consider doing the entire car-buying transaction online. This includes financing, price negotiation, back-office paperwork and home delivery.

This should be no surprise for anyone who has observed how buying experience has changed in the last decade. Everything has become more digitalized, with companies selling fast moving consumer goods and luxury goods, as well as services such as banking and online title loan companies going online to reach and transact with their customers. It is even considered a branding advantage for a store or retail company to provide omni-channel customer experience, a study has shown.

This observation has often been attributed to the rise of the millennial generation. From an auto industry point of view, milllennials have been described as the “game changers”. “They are the next big segment of car buyers, and they’re defining the buying process,” says industry expert Dale Pollak.

Blessed with being exposed to advanced technology and almost free online access throughout their childhood years, millennials want things to happen fast and instantaneously. They want everything in the purchasing process, including ways of transactions, provided to them in a single click. This is in complete contrast to the classic way of buying a car. Now, consumers do not have to suffer from an unreasonably lengthy process of negotiation with the dealer, which is at times both confusing and uncomfortable. They don’t want to be followed around while looking for the right car and deal with lots of pushy salesman telling them about the details. Millenials tend to already have a vehicle in mind when they start looking around for a car. They have in mind a specific vehicle at a specific price, not wanting to negotiate a deal, said Alison Spitzer, vice president of Spitzer Automotive Group. “These buyers aren’t looking for a salesman; they’re looking for a customer advocate,” she said. Millennials want car shopping to come with no surprises, low pressure, and no haggling.

As the case with any other online shopping, the risks of being cheated and ripped off will always be looming simply because the product is not physically there to be seen. There is also always the possibility of products not meeting the consumer’s expectation. Buying cars online is no exception. However, the difference is perhaps the risk is possibly bigger because the money invested in it is much more than a normal online consumer goods. However, DMV.org, the largest driver-related site, stated some specific things that need special attention when it comes to buying cars online.

Firstly, because of the limitless experience online shopping gives, there is a possibility that the specific car wanted is out of the consumer’s state or region. Consumers must bear in mind that buying a car outside of the buyer’s region would mean the car registration and titling process could be more complicated compared to buying a car within the region.

Secondly, online shopping means that the product cannot be tested prior to purchase. As we all know, the test-drive is one of the most essential part when buying a car, as for most people, it is a big decision which could have massive implications to their daily lives for years to come. But if the dealer with the specific car wanted is too far for a trip, the risk of not testing the car is something that should be considered.

There are some tips to avoid getting cheated while car-buying online. Always be wary of suspicious advertisement and also always try to meet the seller and test the car before paying for it. To avoid buying a car that is fake, clones, stolen, or written off, make sure that all of the documents and history of the car is accessible. This is important because if it turns out that the car is either stolen or cloned, then there is a possibility that any outstanding payments associated with the car, including fines, will be passed on the new owner. Should the car be a stolen vehicle, it is likely the police will be after it and may come after its new owners. Lastly, check carefully if there are any modifications done on the car which could merely be an attempt at a quick fix or to paper over some cracks.

Digital Literacy, or just literacy? Incorporating the future into the college curriculum

Software is becoming a crucial part of every aspect of our lives. As the world moves towards a more automated and machine-reliant future, being digitally illiterate will become as challenging as not being able to read or write.

In today’s work environment whether you are an engineer or MBA you at least need to know how to work with pervasive software like word or excel, but by the same token you would be hard pressed to find a sales assistant who had a strong knowledge of how excel is analysing their datasets.

The truth is, while technology does permeate every area of our lives now, we’re still ignorant to how it works, and the best ways we can use it. In 2015 a US study found that American millennials rank among the worst in the world when it comes to applying technical knowledge to solve problems. In 2016, the National Assessment Governing Board found that less than half of Americans aged between 13-15 possessed the necessary digital literacy skills to be considered “proficient” with technology. These results are bound to comes as a surprise, we refer to today’s youth as ‘digital natives’. But the idea that young people are more inherently digitally literate is false. While they may be more adaptive to new technology, and find it easy to use it to locate information, these studies show they don’t know how to use technology to aid in their problem solving, and they generally lack the ability to evaluate and think critically about the information they find.

Why is it so vital that we teach our children to utilize the digital tools around them? We are already living in a world wholly dominated by software. From online shopping to voice over IP, there is software controlling every aspect of our lives, and the world is only going to become more digital.

Digital literacy is often immediately associated with complex skills such as coding and web design, however it also includes data synthesis and analysis, proficiency with digital and automated systems and encompasses transferrable skills like lateral thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, innovation and entrepreneurship, which are useful in a myriad of fields outside of the spectrum of Information Technology. If we add these skills to our concept of traditional literacy, like reading and writing, we have a very clear picture of the sort of composite literacy required for the digitally fuelled 21st Century. As our workforce transitions from manufacturing, mining and service economies into digitally disrupted, socially driven enterprises our education system needs to transition too. What today’s students require is a curriculum that is responsive to these shifts.

The tools for digital learning have become ubiquitous in schools and colleges today across the world today. But education institutions need to boost digital literacy and ensure that students have developed the digital production skills necessary for the workforce of the future. This year the New Media Consortium released the “2017 Digital Literacy Impact Study” to examine how will students were prepared to acclimatize to the digital demands of the workplace after graduation. The conclusion? Students are highly proficient at consuming digital information. But not so skilled when it comes to creating, producing and developing it.

Something as simple as excel training lays the groundwork for advancement to more complex languages and coding. Microsoft excel teaches the basics of data analysis, and with a mastery of these basics, it’s not difficult to progress to an understanding of more complex languages. Take SQL, or Structured Query Language, which is often touted as the most useful language for those in industries like marketing, facilities management and sales. For the past few years, no coding skill has grown in demand more than SQL.

It’s a special-purpose programming language used for managing and analysing large sets of data.
Today, companies keep huge datasets which track their customers, their assets, and relationships between the two, and SQL operates like a more powerful version of excel.

The truth is, anyone with strong digital literacy skills can pick up the basics of a coding language in a few hours, and be building apps and websites in a few weeks. But without an education system taking an active role in promoting these skills early in life, the workers of the future will be forced to acquire them later in life. Just like the workers of today.

A recent study from the Brookings Institution tracked how the use of digital tools had changed in a wide range of occupations. Over the period 2002 to 2016, the use of digital technology, such as computers, tablets and software, became more important in occupations across the board. However, the most dramatic shifts were being felt in jobs that were traditionally the least-reliant on technology. Overall the study suggested that the window of opportunity for workers without basic digital skills, is closing, and in the future the availability of jobs that require little or no digital literacy will be few and far between. Even though technology can empower people and communities, it can also polarize them. Educational institutions, companies and governments all need to begin investing in programs that will ensure basic training for all ages in digital literacy skills.

There is a shift happening, globally. School-aged children across the United Kingdom are now taught basic coding language skills. High Schools in the USA could allow students to take a computer science class instead of algebra II.

The increasing importance of digital literacy can no longer be overlooked, recent reports from the Foundation for Young Australians claimed that over 50% of Australian workers will need to be able to use, configure or build a digital system within the next three years.

Perhaps it is time to construct a new curriculum and to create a re-envision what it really means to be literate in the 21st Century.

How Technology is Revolutionizing Real Estate

Technology is galvanizing the real estate space. Smartphones and tablets have become ubiquitous in the traditional real estate space as both real estate companies and agents take the online and ecommerce route to boost their marketing and advertising efforts. And going by present indications, it is a matter of time before advanced technological platforms, smart buildings, virtual reality and Internet-of-Things revolutionize the face of real estate.

The days of signboard advertising and print adverts may have become a distant memory, but technology will never completely replace human interactions. Most property purchasers still approach agents for help in making buying decisions and some deal directly with the builders of move-in ready homes. No leasing or buying transactions are based purely on algorithms alone. The best agents combine technological advances with people skills to ensure that clients get the best deal.

The Road Thus Travelled

The rapid growth of research and analytics tools have opened the data floodgates, providing developers with insights into available markets, site locations and a host of other data relevant to the real estate business. Many websites have provided access to a variety of analysis and data points. Real estate companies have made a plethora of information available online in an attempt to reach out to discerning consumers. Apps have enabled floor plans and data to be organized in a single place on the cloud and be available at people’s fingertips, simplifying the task of leasing professionals. Intelligent apps have also taken over the conventional skills of real estate agents such as value appraisals. Moreover, apps are assisting prospective buyers by making the search for locations as easy as possible.

On the marketing front, the internet is facilitating better communication and property visibility by optimizing websites and delivering advertising that is mobile-friendly. Marketing for properties, which traditionally revolved around newspaper advertisements and road-side billboards, has metamorphosed into social media marketing and advertising campaigns in the internet age, complete with drone footage, 3D floor plans and video walk-throughs. Live-streaming auctions and video introductions of each property have also become a common-place occurrence. Social media platforms such as Facebook and Linkedin are also allowing property agents to garner and maintain business contacts and relationships with clients.

 Challenges

Every major shift in technology and ways of conducting business leaves a trail of challenges in their wake. In the real estate space, the use of technology is reducing personal contact and face-to-face interactions and this can have a detrimental effect on business in the long run. The need for a real estate company to be in constant touch with clients cannot be overstated as the realty sector is people-centered by its very nature and technology is merely a means towards achieving the desired business outcome.

The glut of information on the internet can be overwhelming and misleading for a newbie customer. The realty agents don’t have it any easy as they have to keep themselves abreast with developments in the realty market, amid an information overload and heightened customer expectations of instant and complete information on matters pertaining to real estate.

The Road of the Future

The real estate business is poised to leapfrog into the future, aided by ground-breaking technological breakthroughs in areas such as Internet-of-Things, Virtual Reality and Smart City.

Internet-of-Things

The Internet-of-Things holds a tremendous potential to overhaul the real estate space. Property developers, agents and owners will be able to monitor a location in real time. Buildings will furnish reports on the status of equipment and security features, control temperature and other climate parameters, alert the police and fire department about accidents and contact companies to schedule repairs.

Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality (VR) is another exciting technology looming on the horizon. VR will enable prospective buyers to check out a property by walking around a virtual environment and feeling the sheer scale of rooms, windows and other paraphernalia.

Smart City

The cities of the future will be smart, thanks to the use of drones, autonomous vehicles, robotics and other technologies. They will utilize sensor technologies to track motion, light, temperature and water flows, analyze the data in order to detect shortcomings and respond in a befitting manner, all by themselves. Smart buildings will maximize the use of energy resources, leading to a reduction in energy use and a decline in the maintenance costs.

To conclude, the real estate industry is focused on customer service and cannot lose sight of this reality. At the same time, it is incumbent for the sector to move in tandem with the times. Companies that embrace new technologies and introduce fresh ideas in their working will score high on customer satisfaction and march ahead of the competition. On the other hand, companies that are found wanting will suffer an ignominious exit from the world of business. It is the forte of technology to usher disruptive changes, in the positive sense of the word, and an opportunity for the real-estate sector to carve out a new future.