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Employability at the heart of University of Derby development

The careers team at the University of Derby is committed to providing a holistic service to their student body, which, like other Million+ institutions, includes students from a broad spectrum of backgrounds undertaking full time, part time and distance learning courses. They are also committed to reaching out to those students, often from widening participation backgrounds, who can most benefit from the services provided.

Celia Beizsley, Career Development Centre (CDC) Manager, explains: 

"There is a challenge for us, and all our institutions, as research (eg, Greenbank and Hepworth, 2008) indicates that such students have less time to participate in additional campus activities, tend to take a serial approach to work and study, may have poorer economic and social capital to rely on to secure good graduate roles, and, in some sectors, may be further disadvantaged by employers who seek to use unpaid internships to sift their graduate recruits.

Positive position

CDC has been at the heart of institutional development on employability and has contributed to many institution-wide groups working on the implementation of effective personal development planning and student experience strategies. We have a key and expanding role to play in helping tutors deliver on employability and personal development planning aspects of the curriculum. The university recognised this when it re-positioned the CDC within a new Institute for Learning Enhancement and Innovation, bringing us closer to both the Learner Support Services, with the library, IT, and study skills, and to the learning technologists so that our expertise and resources contribute to the overall drive to enhance the curriculum.

As a result, engagement between the CDC, faculty and school management teams, programme teams and tutors, has been strengthened and the links between subject careers advisers, tutors and students on programmes have developed. We are now in a positive position to work with programme teams to help to achieve successful outcomes for our students.

Broadening horizons

We can learn from feedback and from research evidence how our current students and graduates think about their future careers. Self-limiting beliefs about confidence and the lack of jobs may be present and we have to challenge opinions and broaden horizons. We also recognise that career conversations take place in many forums and online advice is there for the taking. So, we have taken a very proactive approach to communicating with our students and future employers through social media, exploiting the opportunities provided by Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs etc, so that students hear our message and employers are aware of our services.

We work with local employers and local employer networks to stimulate the demand for graduate-level skills in businesses with no track record of graduate recruitment by inviting employers to engage with students in different ways, through recruitment, placements, employer mentoring or supporting our University of Derby Award.

Employability champions

Careers services are in a unique position to add value to the student experience. My proposition is that we:

• Have an insight into how people make career decisions and the
   skills to stimulate career decision making.
• Possess an understanding of the curriculum and the relevance
   of skills and attributes to future occupations.
• Are committed to working in partnership with our academic colleagues
   to adapt interventions to meet the needs of their students.
• Demonstrate exemplary skills in student engagement, in teaching
   and also one-to-one advice and guidance. 
• Understand how to engage with employers at all levels through
   our insights into local and international job markets. 
• Are able to manage information and advise students. 
• Understand the needs of a wide diversity of students in our
• Provide quick and easy access for our students seeking careers advice
   and also for employers wishing to recruit our graduates.

There will be many changes in the sector in the next few years. What students want and what our institutions demand of us may well change. Each careers service reflects the individual characteristics of their institutions, but from an internal and external perspective we can be leaders in championing the employability of our graduates to prospective employers and future students. When employability is key, we can be at the heart of institutional development, and going forward in the new climate for higher education our services are more important to our students than they have ever been."

Tags: University of Derby student experience University Sector million+

Created on: 24 January 2012

Last updated: 06 February 2012

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