Examples of activities and initiatives within other institutions that address student employability Examples of activities and initiatives within other institutions that address student employability

University of Leicester The Leicester Award

(Source: UKCES Case Studies).

The university runs a work-based learning course entitled the Leicester Award for Employability Skills (often shortened to "The Leicester Award"). Based on experiential learning, the programme is open to students who are already engaged in some form of work experience, paid or unpaid. Students may choose one of the following areas, for which they must be able to demonstrate an existing and ongoing involvement, and around which they must base their course activities and assignments:

  • Volunteering or community work
  • Postgraduate research or academic project
  • Paid employment or self employment
  • Business or social enterprise idea
  • Students' Union activity or involvement

As part of the six-month programme, students attend three interactive workshops designed to encourage self-reflection and personal development as well as challenge students to work as a team under time pressures. Each workshop contains group and individual reflection and feedback.

Experience has shown that experiential learning works best. Students become engaged and energised by practical exercises designed to recognise and further develop skills such as team-working and problem solving. Exercises are not always work-related but designed to be complex and interesting enough to hold students attention and allow them to demonstrate different behaviours/strengths. Team and individual reflection plays an important part in the learning process and students are supported to recognise their existing skills as well as develop new ones. One-to-one verbal feedback (on presentations for example) works very well, especially when delivered by employers involved in the programme.

A significant amount of emphasis is put on developing a supportive environment. This is important for effective teamwork exercises, particularly where students are required to give and receive feedback on strengths and weaknesses.

Assessment

Students complete two pieces of assessed written work and one presentation. The first written assignment focuses on problem solving and decision making in the workplace. It also asks students to consider their team working style and provide examples of effective team working, drawing on their current work experience. Assignment Two requires students to use their networking skills to make contact with an individual in industry, undertake a job study and complete a tailor-made CV, all a part of preparations for their chosen career as graduates. The final assignment is a ten minute oral presentation that is assessed by graduate employers.

For each of these three assignments students receive written and oral feedback to help consolidate their learning, draw out examples of employability skills that they may not have considered and point them in the direction of additional help and networks. The Leicester Award has recently been added to students' transcripts, which has added to the programme's weight and credibility across the institution.

Lancaster University: Developing a generic careers module for use across subject areas (source: AGCAS)

The challenge

To develop a generic, credit-bearing second year careers module for implementation across the university curriculum. Challenges included the diverse nature of the degrees covered (ranging from physics to history) and the need to customise for each subject area.

The solution

Using various resources, a module was put together, roughly based around the DOTS model. This involved mapping existing career and personal development learning and identifying any shortfalls. The original module consisted of five two-hour workshops, with course work usually comprising an occupational study, a presentation and a CV (with covering letter and advert). Course work requirements varied by subject area. Departments were charged according to hours worked by the careers adviser and time spent on course work marking (including second marking).

Outcomes

Over the last three years, seven departments have adopted the programme, with more coming on board each year. Department ownership of the module suits both the department and careers service, allowing the module to be adapted within the curriculum. It usually sits within professional development and its presence has enhanced university performance in quality audits. The credit-bearing nature of the module means automatic enrolment by the department, focused student participation and improved outcomes in terms of employability development in line with the University's aims.

University of Surrey - professional training placements

(Source: CBI Future Fit report).

Seventy percent of Surrey undergraduates [on four-year courses] participate in professional training or workplace based skills development, which is usually undertaken as the third year of a four-year course. This training is open to students of all subjects, even those not traditionally regarded as vocational: for example, those studying politics have obtained placements as political researchers and in public affairs consultancies, psychologists have worked as assistant psychologists in the NHS and in mental health settings, and sociologists in market and social research.

Arranging a year's paid work experience for several hundred students a year is no small achievement, requiring the maintenance of good relationships with a wide range of employers, by size, sector and geography – some 15% of work placements are overseas. The placements are arranged by each department's senior professional training tutor (a member of academic staff) and professional training administrator. For most placements undergraduates apply in competition with their counterparts across the country to firms offering suitable opportunities.

That virtually every student who wants a place gets one indicates the strength of the work Surrey puts in to help its students stand out from the crowd.While students are employed in the same way as any other employee, the university does draw up an agreement with the employer to ensure the professional training tutor or other academic staff under their supervision can visit the student up to three times over the course of the year.

Measuring success

The results of Surrey's approach can be clearly seen. Last year, more than 80% of students were either above average or very satisfied with the professional development value of their placement experience. HESA's destination statistics show Surrey has the most consistent graduate employment record in the country: the university is always within the top three for getting its students into employment or further study within six months of completing their degree.

In addition, Surrey's computer department has produced an interesting analysis that suggests those who do professional training get a better degree result; similar evaluations are now planned across other sectors of the university.

Dr Russ Clarke, head of the Careers Service, concludes: "I'd encourage every institution to provide students with opportunities to develop work-related skills in a practical setting, whether through the students' union, volunteering, paid employment, curriculum based initiatives or through the particular route Surrey has chosen. It takes a long time to arrive at a Surrey-style programme with such high availability of year-long placements for students on every degree course, but it is worth the effort."

University of Exeter

‘Our approach combines a broad range of curriculum-based and accredited and assessed extra-curricula activities. These provide students with a continuum of opportunities to enable them to enhance their employability and become more confident and independent learners. This represents a multi-faceted approach to employability and skills development, and making sense of experiences through personal development planning. Every School participates in curriculum-based activities, with each being supported and encouraged to embed centrally developed teaching and learning packages.'

See full case study.

University of Warwick

The Kings-Warwick Project

This collaborative project between Kings College London and the University of Warwick (2009 onwards) plans to undertake a fundamental review of undergraduate provision in partnership with a range of key stakeholders that will emphasize the importance of the research mission of universities to develop attributes that are essential for students in employment and as members of society.

As a result it is intended that both universities will work towards developing an active and outward-looking curriculum that will enable undergraduate students to experience the thrill of working in a research environment, engage in high level academic discourse, experience interdisciplinarity, gain a global perspective on study and research, and engage with communities beyond the university.  For more information view the project website.

University of Central Lancashire

'UCLan Employability Framework', Helen Day, Centre for the Enhancement of Employability Through the Humanities.

University of Bedfordshire

'Engaging Students in PDP and Employability through U CRe8 Club', Ina Maslejova.

University College Suffolk

'The P Framework: a guide to personal & professional progress planning for students', Carol Faiers.