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A GROUNDBREAKING online careers web service is set to revolutionise how people plan their working lives in the UK.

Combining millions of permutations, the new free online service, www.iwant2b.org.uk, can map out individual pathways for people looking to embark on a particular career or to change jobs completely.

It is intended to help people fast-track their career plan and tap into some of the best job opportunities of the future as for the first time it links together universities and colleges to clearly show how to get the right qualifications for the right job and where.

The new system, which has been developed by the North East Higher Skills Network, is being trialled in the North East region, where all 28 universities and colleges have come together. It is hoped the system can soon be rolled out across the UK enabling users countrywide to search every course in the country from one website.

Iwant2b is aimed at everyone from teenagers to middle-agers and enables users to create a profile of their own work history and qualifications on-line, using this information to map out the right courses needed to arrive at a particular career.

Dr Mark Lythgoe, one of the few scientists in the world to have held Albert Einstein’s brain, launched the innovative online careers mapping tool – adding that such a system may have helped him fast-track his ambitions at an earlier age.

Now the director of the Centre for Advanced Biomedical Imaging at University College London, 43-year-old Dr Lythgoe explained how he left school with just one poor ‘A’ level pass and spent years working across the world doing a variety of jobs – from a dog-trainer’s dummy in Israel to a researcher on board the ‘flying doctor’ flights in the Australian outback – before deciding on what he wanted to do.

After returning to England, Mark took the first tentative steps on to an academic career, studying diplomas, enrolling on a part-time MSc course, before finally getting a PhD at the age of 38 – “one of the happiest days of my life”.

He said: “I had to overcome a lot of negativity, because I did not adopt the traditional approach into an academic career and as a result I always felt very driven – as if I needed to prove myself and that I was capable of doing the work.

“When I left school I had no idea what I wanted to do really and how to even start going about getting where I needed to be. I had no idea how useful and relevant the educational system could be for me and what doors it could open and opportunities it could provide.

“But I think a system like iwant2b may have helped me and made a massive difference as I would have had clear advice and help from an early age.”

The innovative virtual expert helper is the brainchild of IT and careers experts at the North East Higher Skills Network. Backed by all 28 of the universities and colleges in the North East, the network is tasked with improving the take up of higher education and skills across the region.

Professor Graham Henderson, Chairman of the Network and Vice Chancellor at the University of Teesside, said: “By providing a clear career pathway, people can see at a glance where they need to go for help and training without having to trawl through dozens of individual websites.

“It has been a huge technical task to develop the first stages of iwant2b.org.uk, which we believe will be an excellent tool for anyone looking to map out a career or change direction at any stage in their lives.

“When you look at what Dr Lythgoe achieved through having a goal and sticking to a clear path of education it makes you realise the enormous potential we all have. Quite often we just need to unlock that potential and the iwant2b tool will help people do that quickly and simply by setting out a pathway at the touch of a button.”

-ENDS-

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Editors Notes:

• North East Higher Skills Network - The North East Higher Skills Network is a Lifelong Learning Network (LLN) for the North East, supported by all 28 higher and further education institutions in the region. The network aims to assist over 2000 people with vocational qualifications to take a higher education learning opportunity.

• NEHSN also aims to improve the percentage of the region’s economically active residents with qualifications at level 4 and above from 20.7 per cent in 2003 to 29 per cent in 2010. Activity is focused on sectors of key regional significance, namely engineering (manufacturing), health and social care and the cross-cutting themes of leadership and management.

Dr Mark Lythgoe – Biography

Mark Lythgoe left school with an E grade pass in A Level Physics, much to the horror of his parents.

His mother forced him to apply for a three-year radiography diploma at Salford College of Technology and after that he worked as a fitter in a factory, doing 12 hour shifts making flexible plastic pipes.

Fed up of the shift patterns, Mark opted for a period of travelling and ended up being a dog-trainer’s dummy in Israel – “the scariest job in my life” – before progressing to the more comfortable position of attack dog trainer.

After that Mark moved to the Australian outback, where he worked as a researcher investigating the prevalence of tuberculosis in the Aboriginal population.

Climbing was also a passion with Mark and after spending several seasons in the Italian Dolomites and Pyrenees, as well as trips to Kenya, he moved to South America, climbing many of the inaccessible peaks.

After several expeditions and a difficult experience on Sangay, the most active volcano in South America, together with the loss of several friends on other expeditions, Mark returned to England to pursue an academic life.

Now Dr Mark Lythgoe is Director of the Centre for Advanced Biomedical Imaging at University College London, where he develops novel techniques for investigating brain and cardiac function, and explores possible therapies for stroke and epilepsy.

He is also co-Director of the Cheltenham Science Festival and is passionately involved in the public engagement of science. In 2005 he received a Biosciences Federation Science Communication Award, which rewards bioscientists who make an outstanding and consistent contribution to communicating science to the public.

In 2007, Mark was awarded membership of the European Dana Alliance for the Brain, which is a society of more than 155 eminent brain scientists, including five Nobel laureates, that is committed to enhancing the public understanding of brain research.

Mark has presented several documentaries for television and radio, including the Channel 4 programme, The Secret of Einstein’s Brain.

In the programme, Mark and his team tried to track down Einstein’s brain, which had ‘disappeared’ for 55 years. Several years of painstaking research led the team to the states, where they met the man who had taken Einstein’s brain out and eventually tracked the brain down from there.

Mark said: “Einstein was my icon and as a neuroscientist it was a very special moment to actually hold Einstein’s brain – the brain of man whose work had actually changed the world.”

Mark believes that the key to getting the most out of education at an early age is to find something or someone to connect their chosen subject to the real world.

He said: “For me I made that connection when I realised that science underpins every waking moment – from brushing our teeth to going for a drive in the car.

“And we should always continue to challenge and ask why. Children do this and Einstein did say we must keep thinking as a child.”

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