Employability, its everyone’s agenda.
October, it’s a distant memory. The class of 2020 is now well and truly immersed in campus culture. Activity this year to date has shown a clear, new and renewed focus on jobs. The 'W' word is now expected and definitely accepted amongst students rather than an additional extra.
I am of course talking about 'work' and the new found energy which appears to have surfaced out of the growing acceptance of the word employability.
What does employability mean? It is everyone's agenda. Speaking as Student Employment Coordinator at an applied University, Welcome Week activity at the outset of this academic year has reaffirmed the opinion that our students and graduates are more keen than ever to engage in the offer of careers and employability services.
The word itself still seems to battle for its identity. Is employability a describing word, a name for something or both? It is of course completely dependent on how you apply it which ironically is the key challenge for our students.
One size definitely doesn't fit all but one positive consequence of the word is that our students now also get it!
We're still no closer to truly seeing the impact of Brexit but in a practical sense, even fresher's are having to make a decision whether they upskill and choose to 'remain' in a competitive job market.
On the 4th and 5th of October last year, our part-time job fairs on campus saw over 1600 students attend, all looking for paid work to suit their studies. A significant proportion of these were first years.
The demand for work is not in question, the opportunities are out there. At 18 years old, there is a realisation amongst entrants to higher education that building a CV is a must rather than entering the labour market with a high end qualification alone.
In Yorkshire, the average graduate salary is £17,128. Students have to realise the skills they are gaining and be able to sell themselves. A difficult skill for a generation who could be forgiven for expecting answers at the touch of a smartphone.
A renewed focus then for us student employment professionals. Our remit is ever more reliant on making our students realise their potential by knowing exactly what skills they can apply to add value in an SME business or global graduate employer.
This year is perhaps the most target driven we have seen for institutions in the HE sector. We now definitely know that generation TEF will benefit from scrutiny being placed on the quality of teaching. The changing format of DLHE will mean we place more reliance than ever on the quality of post-graduate employment. We are all in the spotlight and for reasons which will reflect positively on the work we do towards shaping the future of our students. The takeaway from this is that NOW more than ever, students and graduates need the support of Careers Services, Job Shops and business focused professionals who can give them commercial awareness and a competitive edge.
We have over 32,000 students trying to achieve this at Sheffield Hallam. For that reason we have to continue to adapt and remain focused on the things that will equip graduates to not only enter the labour market but to approach change with positivity and feel like they have a voice in an increasingly noisy world.
Welcome week through the eyes of a Senior Events Officer
· Why is Welcome Week (3 weeks!) exciting for someone in your position?
Welcome Week is one of the biggest and exciting times of the year at SHU which is why it is so great for myself to be involved as a Senior Events Officer. I get to create a programme of events aimed at new students to make them aware of the service I work for and try and engage them with that service. I can be as creative as I like (within budget of course!) and try to come up with fun events for both the students and the staff to work on. It is great to meet all the new students and the whole of the campus has a great buzz about it especially after the quietness of the summer.
· What were you involved in?
The first week of events involved activities that I had set up myself and also taking part in other events that the University/Students Union were running. This included a pizza giveaway, a campus jobs day, a sports & lifestyle fair, a feel good fair and a fresher's fair. We had engagement from over 1100 students with our service at these events. The second week involved what I called 'Jobs on Tours' where myself and a student ambassador went round 2 different University buildings each day chatting to students about how we can help them find jobs and also promoting our part time jobs fair that was taking place the following week. This was well received and we engaged with over 400 students, plus on the Thursday of that week we had a stall at the Students' Union Freebie fair at which over 4000 students attended.
The third week involved our 'Work While You Study' part time jobs fair, and leading up to this for 12 days we had a prize draw running called '12 days of giveaways' where students could win a different prize each day.
· What is a typical day like?
A typical day for these type of events would involve an early start to get things set up, especially if we are setting up a stand and gazebo in the Square outside our Careers & Employability centre or if I am meeting student ambassadors to brief them on their task for the day. I usually would also work on each of the events myself so this would involve also making sure that people are doing what they should be doing, that stands are kept stocked up and the event is promoted throughout the day and cleared away at the end. I do a review at the end of each day about that day's activity so I note down what went well and what could be improved on next time. This is invaluable to do so that I don’t forget when I come to do something similar next time, what happened the first time round, do I need to tweek things or completely change them of not do them again at all. I also make a note of attendance and then plan a list of tasks for the next day.
Why did we do the events we delivered?
Some of the activities such as the pizza giveaway have absolutely nothing to do with our service but they are simply a great way to get students to come into our centre - everyone loves pizza! So they know that firstly we exist, and secondly that we are here for them when they are ready to use us. Some students come to University with a pre-existing idea of what a Careers Service is and what they have to offer, which does not necessarily match what our service offers, so we are trying to change their perception and also do something fun and what they might not expect, like give away free pizza.
Some of the other events that we were involved in such as the Sports and Lifestyle fair, we take part as it is good for us to have a presence and support the fair and a great way to get our message across to students.
The 'jobs on tour' was an excellent way for us to take ourselves to the student's rather than try and get them to come to us. This is a simple but very effective way to engage with students.
· How did you feel it went?
I felt it went really well. I tried a few new ideas this year and overall the engagement was more than I expected so I was really pleased and would definitely do those activities again. We were visible on campus every day during those first 3 important weeks of term and hopefully students now know who we are, where we are and at least some of what we do. We promoted our Work While You Study fair during the first 2 and a half weeks and this had excellent attendance which I'd like to think the promotion during the run up to it as part of Welcome week activities had something to do with it.
· What went well/how did the students react?
The pizza giveaway and 12 days of giveaways went well - clearly students love free stuff! We don’t have a very big budget so are limited in these types of activities but they are definitely the ones that student's respond to most, and who can blame them! We also had games on our stands when we attended different fairs, such as Hoop-La and Wheel of fortune and students do like to interact with these - just having information leaflets about Careers and Employability does not attract people over or engage them.
· Anything you learned about the first three weeks of term?
I've learned that it is definitely worth being everywhere on campus during those first few weeks. Students do get bombarded with information during those weeks so it's best to not try and do this but more just to make your presence known and do as much fun/freebie stuff as possible - try and think of stuff you would want to be involved in if you were a student. Also, concentrate on not trying to tell them everything about the service but just the main things a new student might be interested in such as finding part time work. It is hard work but worth it!
All the fun of the Job Fair!
Over 40 employers, 1600 student attendees and a whole host of on the day interviews later . . . our Work While You Study Fairs we're back on campus in Welcome Week.
Each semester our Careers Team run part-time jobs fairs which attract local and national employers on campus to promote paid part-time work to students. Alongside external companies, internal teams attend the fair to promote casual work within teams on campus. A refreshing start to the year as the appetite for on campus work alone is huge here in Sheffield.
Over the last academic year, our campus jobs offer has seen Sheffield Hallam provide paid part-time work to 1189 students who worked a total of 54,000 hours in internal teams. From Ambassador work to Shelver jobs, Mentors and Administration Assistants, the breadth of roles advertised to current students has increased.
Never before have we advertised more opportunities for students to get involved in work assignments within the internal teams and functions at the University. Student experience is everything and one thing we can certify is that student opinions, ideas and input are crucial in maintaining a University that can provide a platform for undergraduates to become more employable.
The view from external employers who have been on campus this year to date confirms that soft skills, regardless of sector, are the benchmark of a good candidate rather than specialist knowledge. Our part-time jobs fair brought companies on campus from the retail, catering, hospitality, leisure, security, entertainment and sales sectors to name a few. The data gathered in our marketing asked businesses to highlight key skills they were looking for from our students.
The top 5 skills which appear to be sought after by part-time employers are;
ü Customer Focus
ü Proactive Thinking
No great surprises but a clear indication that businesses are definitely seeking outward facing 'ambassadors' in an increasingly crowded casual labour market.
The 2017 Sheffield labour market shows a growing trend in the rise of SME's and start-up businesses. Last year, UK statistics showed that 1 in 6 graduates were employed after graduation by companies with less than 50 employees. The rise of gig economy alone is proof that we function as a consumer driven workforce. Offering relevant opportunities and access to suitable jobs to almost future proof our students is crucial.
October 26th saw our biggest graduate recruitment and placement fair to date. Our city campus was host to 140 employers with 2000 plus students attending all looking for graduate jobs or placements. In past years we have run large individual job fairs for all four of our faculties. Being employable is about applying your skills and learning within different environments. Do you have to be a Science graduate to join a pharmaceutical company? It is our job to prepare students and give them access to all industries for them to make their own decisions.
Branded chocolate, stress balls and lanyards are useful, but having the chance to meet what could be a future boss gives our students the chance to ask the right questions and see what's out there for themselves.
If all else fails, networking is a skill which can often surpass any CV.
The SHU Enterprise Team is an important element of the Careers and Employability Service and is made up of 5 dedicated staff members. Our role is to oversee the promotion and delivery of our offer to both students and graduates (up to 5 years). The offer itself is comprised of 3 key strands:
· Start-up support
· Hallam Freelancers
· Enterprise skills development curricular and extra-curricular support
We support students and graduates who wish to develop a commercial or social venture of their own. In order to help them achieve this, we provide them with access to a range of services which include: 1:1 business advice, workshops and networking events, free hot-desk facilities in our incubator office and creative studio spaces. We have also created a funded placement year programme (PYES) for students who would prefer to use their year out from their studies to develop a venture of their own as opposed to working in a company or organisation; this year (2017/2018) we have 20 students enrolled on the programme. In addition to PYES, we support up to 10 international students each year on the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneurship Visa, and this summer we introduced our funded graduate start-up internship programme. We also provide additional seed funding for home graduates to help them kick-start their business ideas.
Hallam Freelancers is an exciting and innovative addition to our jobs page. Students and graduates have the opportunity to access a wide range of advertised paid freelance work from businesses and organisations offering short-term contracts. This initiative provides them with: access to quality self-employed paid work; an opportunity to showcase their skills to employers; enhance their CVs. We currently have more than 100 students and 49 businesses registered. Most of the freelance work is for the creative arts, media and design industries, although there is a number from the PR, marketing and events sectors as well.
Enterprise skills development curricular and extra-curricular support
Throughout the year, the Enterprise Teamwork with academic (alongside our careers colleagues) in supporting them to embed and deliver enterprise skills development into their courses. As a team, we also provide students with opportunities to develop these skills through a range of extra-curricular competitions, workshops and events. Our flagship event, Enterprise Action Week, takes place during Global Entrepreneurship Week, when we host a full week of talks, workshops, events and activities for our students to get involved with.
The Hallam Enterprise Awards
The inaugural Hallam Enterprise Awards 2017 was held on Thursday 28th September and was sponsored by Santander Bank. This was an opportunity for some of our most innovative student and graduate start-ups to showcase their businesses and share achievements with fellow entrepreneurs and innovators from Sheffield's business and HE communities.
As a team, if we felt it was important to host this event not only to provide our talented entrepreneurs with an opportunity to showcase their businesses; but to allow us to acknowledge and congratulate them on their passion, drive, motivation, hard work and determination to turn their ideas into viable and long-term sustainable commercial ventures. This year’s ten finalists provided a snapshot of the range of business ideas we currently support and demonstrated the breadth and depth of the entrepreneurial talent and spirit that SHU students and graduates possess.
The finalists were competing for the first prize of £5,000 and runners-up prizes x 2 of £2,000. The Enterprise Team also sponsored the audience vote prize of £1,000 for best pitch. Each finalist presented a 5-minute pitch to invited guests.
The winner of the evening was Max Scotford with his craft chocolate business, Bullion. The runners-up were Nelly Naylor (Same-Sex Photography) and Danielle Ray (I love a Dan Tan) providing natural home tanning products. The audience vote for the best pitch was won by Harvey Morton (Harvey Morton Ltd) with his IT service company.
Bullion is a craft chocolate company producing a single origin chocolate from ‘bean-to-bar’. Just as with fine wine, Max wants to encourage people to discuss the different origins and distinct flavour notes of the chocolate he produces.
Max has now set up a small scale production unit at Kelham Island. Bullion is now on the shelves of 7 independent retailers in Sheffield, and are also sold nationwide in cities such as London, Leeds (Harvey Nichols) and in this year’s city of culture, Hull.
SHU Enterprise Team's plans for 2017/2018
Over the coming year, the Enterprise Team will be focussing on consolidating the progress that was made in the previous year whilst looking for ways in which to improve and expand on our current offer. A couple of notable additions to our current offer will include:
I Introducing the ENACTUS programme to the University for September 2018
· Piloting an Accelerator programme for high potential start-up businesses
· Introducing a graduate start-up internship programme (sponsored by Santander Bank) in June 2018. This programme will prioritise new graduates from WP categories.
· We are working closely with our business school colleagues in the development of an MSc in Entrepreneurship and Innovation (September 2018). This programme will target both home and international graduates who have the intention to set up their own businesses.
· Discussions are currently underway with a view to relocating the current Hatchery incubator office space and the Enterprise Team into larger and more suitable premises within the SHU city campus precinct.