Phoenix, February 2022 - Students as Co-Creators

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STUDENTS AS CO-CREATORS Transforming careers delivery: peers on the frontline Walking in their shoes: a new student perspective Students as co-creators: is it worth it? Peer-to-peer support as an identity experiment

Phoenix is the AGCAS journal

february 2022














26 LISTENING TO THE STUDENT VOICE? WE'RE ALL EARS Sheffield Hallam University 28 STUDENTS AS CO-CREATORS: IS IT WORTH IT? Queen Mary University of London












Phoenix is the digital journal of AGCAS, the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services. It is published three times a year. To find out more about AGCAS, see Created in-house by AGCAS, based on an original design by Marcom

PHOENIX EDITORIAL GROUP Suzie Bullock University of Leeds

Ellen Shobrook University of Birmingham

Mary Macfarlane Sheffield Hallam University

Kate Robertson University of Aberdeen Emma Hill Edinburgh Napier University

Sarah Brown University of Gloucestershire Eva Pemberton Birmingham City University

Laura Scott University of Birmingham

Lisa McWilliams Keele University

message from the


In its recent report, A Student Futures Manifesto, the UPP Foundation Student Futures Commission celebrates a significant shift that took place – and is still taking place – within universities in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The report notes that in the enhancement of the student experience some of the most successful initiatives grew out of collaboration between university staff and students. The manifesto goes on to endorse this move from ‘student consultation’ to activity that is rooted in genuine and meaningful co-creation and co-production, empowering students to be agents of change across all areas of institutional activity. The repositioning of students as partners, rather than consumers or customers, is not altogether new. However, as the report highlights, Covid-19 and the post-pandemic fallout has placed renewed focus on reimagining the student experience: in the development of service provision students want to be spoken with, not spoken about; provision should be shaped with students, not simply for students. True partnership with students transcends the reductive tick-box exercise of simply seeking ‘student feedback’. In this issue of Phoenix, you can read how university careers services are working with students as partners to co-create and deliver careers and employability provision as part of wider institutional efforts to enhance the student experience. Often working in collaboration with learning and teaching colleagues and representatives from Students’ Unions, AGCAS members have created the infrastructure and mechanisms to enable students to work as equals and make truly meaningful contributions to service delivery. In many university careers services, students have played an active role at both an operational and strategic level for many years – and AGCAS members are building on these long-standing foundations to further embed the spirit of collaboration. For others, engaging students as co-creators in service delivery, to tackle new challenges or seek new solutions to old challenges, is newer territory. And then there are others walking a different path, reimagining their service model entirely by placing students on the front line of peer-to-peer delivery. Regardless of where AGCAS members are on this journey, over the following pages you can read how fostering an authentic environment of student inclusivity and actively dialling-up the student voice is helping to break down barriers to engagement, demystify careers and employability support, extend reach and relevance, and spark innovation.


The benefits of co-creation to both students and careers services alike are compelling. For careers services, it’s being able to hear the truth about initiatives and strategies as they are being formed, capitalising on opportunities to implement changes to service delivery in direct response to student input. This has demanded an open mindset, being receptive to hearing and responding to student views that challenge the fundamentals of careers service delivery or seek to break down hierarchies (perceived or real). Working with students as partners has also enabled greater visibility of the work of university careers services, both within the institution as part of a broader employability ecosystem and beyond the university gates, presenting new opportunities to enhance existing networks and develop partnerships with external stakeholders. From the student perspective, empowerment, inclusivity and relatability run through this issue like golden threads. There are firsthand accounts from students who feel heard, and listened to, when presented with the opportunity to review existing careers and employability support and then recommend alternatives that better meet the needs of a diverse student population. You can read examples of how students’ lived experiences underpin the creation of innovative projects targeted at different groups, so that students can see themselves when accessing careers and employability support, drawn in by language that makes sense to them. There is welcome recognition of careers services’ genuine desire to better understand what it’s really like to walk in the shoes of care leavers, students with disabilities, students from different socioeconomic backgrounds, international students, and those with different learning experiences. Many of the articles featured in this issue speak of students’ sense of belonging and how this has been strengthened as a direct result of shaping or receiving careers support that originated from authentic cocreation. Students are their own experts in learning experiences. In universities throughout the UK, they are bringing fresh insights to help ensure careers provision remains agile, inclusive and effective to meet the needs of the 21st century student body. Ever conscious of the challenges ahead, careers and employability professionals will continue to tap into and harness the student talent that exists to better understand what the current and future generation of students need – not what we think they need. Ultimately, it is the act of combining students’ insights with careers professionals’ expert knowledge that will help students realise their career aspirations and fulfil their potential. Thank you to all article contributors and the Phoenix Editorial Group who have helped to produce this issue, which really is just a snapshot of the tremendous work taking place across the AGCAS community. Gemma Green, Editor



transforming careers delivery:


EMMA MOORE, Director of Careers and Employability, talks about reimagining the careers delivery model at the University of Liverpool to create a brand new, unique front line Career Studio offer, led by students, for students, empowered by careers experts. This transformation has put peer-topeer firmly at the heart of everything the Liverpool team does - improving student engagement, impacting career confidence and supporting student wellbeing post-lockdown. In September 2018, we launched the Career Studio at the University of Liverpool – the UK’s first peer-to-peer, front line employability delivery space. Influenced by the Nevada model but made relevant to Liverpool, the Career Studio is run by trained student Career Coaches. Our model is unique in that it is grounded in co-exploration. There are no time restrictions, no prerequisites or expectations, no cancelled appointments or wasted time - just a willingness for students to tap into their curiosity and to work with a Career Coach to explore options and make decisions on next steps, together. Our Career Coaches are what make our offer unique. We invest heavily in recruiting, training, and developing them to deliver the front line employability experience. Recruitment is by personal statement, video interview and full assessment centre. Every time we recruit, we refine the process. Every new cohort of coaches takes part in a bespoke, immersive twoweek long training programme (delivered primarily by our team) where they learn how to co-explore career ideas with their peers. Every coach is mentored, observed and given fortnightly feedback from a member of the professional team to ensure quality and enable continuous improvement.

The Career Studio delivery model was developed in response to a perfect storm of poor metrics, dwindling student interactions and low levels of engagement with the service. University leadership called for transformational change around employability delivery. They wanted a move away from the pure career guidance model that was engaging only 10%, just one in ten, who arguably were our most motivated, career-ready students. The aim was to widen reach, and the main goal was to scale. We have observed a dramatic increase in student engagement since the Career Studio opened. In year one (2018/19) 18% of the student body visited the Career Studio, compared to the usual 10-12% who would have engaged annually with the former front line appointments system. In year two (2019/20), before Covid, engagement was up by another 75%. To enhance and support the Career Studio experience, we have developed a range of virtual and augmented reality (AR) tools and use a growing suite of digital tools, including Handshake, CV360, Shortlist.Me and Forage. Students who visit the Career Studio can explore sectors in AR, immerse themselves in a virtual tour of an employer's office, or prepare for virtual recruitment processes as part of the experience. Career Coaches work closely with our team of tech professionals to curate memorable experiential activities for all, making for a tech-enhanced offer.

The Career Studio is still the jewel in our crown, helping us to buck the negative trend in student engagement EMPLOYABILITY ECOSYSTEM While our Career Coaches are busy running the front line, the rest of the team are freed-up to focus on curricular delivery, research, developing new resources, and delivering projects and activities focused on inclusion, enterprise and belonging. Pivoting to a new peer-to-peer model has made all of this possible. It has helped strike the perfect balance between front line and curricular delivery. It has created a new employability ecosystem at Liverpool, which continues to thrive. Three years on, we are now reaching 57% of students through the curriculum; before the Career Studio we were only working in a couple of modules. Academic colleagues view us as credible partners and demand for support to deliver active learning, authentic assessment and confidence through the curriculum is growing at pace, taking us ever closer to our goal of 100% reach.


Career Coaches inform and support curricular delivery. They become a sounding board for curricular ideas and assessments, and come into lectures and workshops to deliver recruitability content. We can have open conversations as colleagues that would not be possible with other students.

"The Careers Team are great at planning suitable interventions in the curriculum. The team listen carefully to departments and understand that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. The team listens to new ideas and values the input from academic colleagues. It feels good to be working together with passionate individuals who are very responsive to new ideas. " Academic colleague

SCALABILITY In 2020 we conducted a research project, funded by HECSU, to explore the benefits of implementing peer support principles into careers and employability delivery. The research found that introducing a peer-to-peer service can enable increased student engagement. It is a mechanism to deliver the wider benefits of peerto-peer models at scale to student populations across all degree types. The research also highlighted how peer-to-peer interactions nudge students to take positive employability-enhancing action and found that having a place like the Career Studio helps to reduce anxiety levels around future career planning.

AN EXPERIENCE LIKE NO OTHER Student engagement with the Career Studio and findings from the HECSU research tell us that the Liverpool peer-to-peer model works. Another indication of its success is the number of services across the UK and beyond that, following conversations with the team and campus visits, have adopted the model or begun to incorporate students as partners somewhere within their offer. Post-lockdown, the Career Studio is still the jewel in our crown, helping us to buck the negative trend in student engagement. Having provided a virtual drop-in Career Studio on Zoom during lockdown we re-opened the on-campus space in May 2021. Since then, we have continued to offer both services in parallel to students. This semester, students have well and truly voted with their feet, with 90% of interactions happening in the on-campus Career Studio, meaning frontline engagement is back at 75% of pre-Covid levels. Conversations in the Career Studio are also sounding quite different. Something the Career Coaches have always done well is to establish rapport using shared experiences. The shared experience of career exploration and job searching in Covid times now comes through in almost every interaction. Career Coaches empathise with their peers in an authentic way, reducing anxiety and building confidence. This is something you cannot create: it only happens when peers connect with peers, in a place where they feel inspired and supported.

An added benefit the research exposed was how having paid peer roles is a means to develop the employability skills of individuals in the roles, helping them to progress and accelerating their career development at speed.

TALENT PIPELINE Over 50 students have now been a Career Coach, and 31 have now graduated. All our Career Coach alumni were in highly-skilled employment or further study 15 months after graduating (Graduate Outcomes survey data). One aim in developing the Career Coach position was to create a talent pipeline, using the role as inspiration for a long-term career in the sector. This pipeline has become a reality as many Career Coach alumni are now working in a variety of HR, talent management, higher education, and employability roles. The pipeline has advantages for our team, too. The Career Coach alumni that are now working in roles across the sector have enhanced our existing networks and opened-up new partnerships for us to develop.


Peer-to-peer interactions nudge students to take positive employability-enhancing action

REFLECTIONS FROM CAREER COACH ALUMNI "I was able to secure my role through a connection at the Career Studio. Whilst working as a Career Coach I developed my love for working with students. My employer was impressed with my commercial awareness of the graduate labour market, which I developed working in the Career Studio. The role of Career Coach has been a crucial element of my transition from education to the world of work. Not only have I developed key employability skills, but a great network too. " Hannah Emerging Talent Co-ordinator, DWF

"My experience as a Career Coach helped me in several ways. The training we received on analysing non-verbal indicators, such as eye contact and body language, as well as awareness of questioning techniques really helped. The ability to work alongside people from a range of backgrounds who have different career prospects and aspirations helped me to figure out what I really wanted to do."

"There is a clear link between the specific skills I learnt as a Career Coach and the work I do now. Having developed a good understanding of what makes a strong application, knowledge of career pathways, and most importantly coaching techniques, I continue to use and build on these skills every day in my current role. Becoming a Career Coach opened a whole new world of options for me, and my experience in the Career Studio is the single biggest contributor to my career development. I have found the sector for me and that would not have been possible without the Career Studio." Freya University Partnership and Engagement Lead, Up Reach

"The main skill that put me in good stead for my current role was the ability to step outside of my comfort zone. I was always encouraged to take on various tasks whilst being a Career Coach, such as developing workshops, presenting, public speaking, and an all-round attitude to take on new challenges. The encouragement and support I received to embrace new challenges set me up for the rest of my career. This is something that would have taken a lot longer to develop, if I had not become a Career Coach. It taught me the most valuable lessons throughout my time at university. " George Project Consultant, Gradconsult

Ben Learning Adviser, University of Liverpool International College @EmmaatUoL Connect with Emma on LinkedIn


empowering students as agents of change


STRATEGIC FRAMEWORKS JONATHAN EASTWOOD, Careers and Employability Service Manager, and NEELAM THAPAR, Head of Careers and Employability, at London Metropolitan University, outline the different ways they have worked in partnership with students to create an inclusive careers education framework, developing new approaches to service delivery, platforms and careers content. A deep social mission to transform lives through education has always grounded London Metropolitan University. Our students lead complex lives, working and managing other responsibilities alongside their studies. With a demographic that includes 80% mature students, 64% from Black and minority ethnic communities, and 13% with a disclosed disability, we want students to see themselves reflected in what they learn. This means ensuring our curricula and practice - preparing students for employment and life - align with the principles of equity and are responsive to the challenges facing London and its communities. Incorporating the student voice through collaboration and cocreation has enabled us to develop strategies and challenge practices to understand and meet these divergent needs. The first step in doing so was to involve students in the creation of several frameworks that would guide our overall strategy.

Incorporating the student voice has enabled us to challenge practices PAGE 8 PAGE 10

Students co-designed the values-led Education for Social Justice framework and Careers Education framework, which set out a holistic approach to embedding employability, delivered collaboratively between Careers and Employability/work-based learning teams, schools, employers and students. It combines principles of inclusive pedagogy and strategies that enable students to be greater agents of social change. As part of this, our student designers helped to prioritise key issues and challenges that were important for students. We used their insight to support timely interventions and developed a resource for academics with prompt questions.

"Being a student co-designer of the London Met Careers Education Framework was a wonderful opportunity to work collaboratively to ensure that we can enable students to develop their employability skills and empower them in a fair and inclusive way. This has developed into a full partnership with the Students Union, where we are all equally creating initiatives and taking responsibility for inclusive opportunities for all our students." Denise Morrison, former student codesigner, now Students Union Sabbatical Officer

The London Met Student Partnership Agreement also launched this academic year. This has been co-created between students, university staff and the Students Union giving guiding values and principles to embed student partnership in all university activity. Students have decided on three key project themes for this year with our service leading an employability workstream.

STUDENT VOICE The fact that our students differ so much in terms of age and social and cultural capital means there are a wide variety of factors to consider when scheduling co-curricular employability activities. In order to represent the breadth of our student cohort, we recruited 14 Careers Student Voice Partners from across the university, specifically targeting a mixture of students who had engaged with employability activity and those who had not. We held an initial panel meeting where students could share ideas for the design and delivery of projects, then partnered specific students with staff to put this in motion. Their work led us to alter the timing, promotion, and administrative processes of webinar delivery – factors that contributed to a 29% increase in webinar and event attendance. Student Voice Partners took the lead on designing content for their peers, including career development guides. We noticed that there was a clear departure in tone from previous projects; instead, they spoke specifically to the needs and experiences of London Met students. This peer-to-peer delivery has created a wider entry point to engagement with our team, and our students are able to influence and see the improvements they are making to the wider student experience.

Peer-to-peer delivery has created a wider entry point to engagement with our team


SENSE OF BELONGING During the 20/21 academic year, students regularly expressed that they felt a lack of community, which was particularly lamented by graduates seeking employment during a challenging time. To address this, we convened a team of graduates who were paid to create a platform enabling graduates across the university to connect with and support each other. The team were trained to source and promote opportunities and had the freedom to pitch and manage the platform as they wished. Their design and management of the platform piqued the interest of the graduates – it gave them a sense of belonging and a place to share their challenges, which led to increased engagement with careers consultants. This reciprocal activity has created a method of attachment, allowing us to sustain relationships with our recent alumni, which we hope will also pay dividends in a Graduate Outcomes context. Working with students as partners at all levels has been extremely valuable. Our students are their own experts in learning experiences. Their input strengthens engagement, continuation and progression, increasing graduate employability skills, while at the same time enhancing wellbeing and a sense of belonging. Students and staff have space to share responsibility and, ultimately, contribute equally to learning.



relatability and authenticity:


MANDY LOVELL, Careers Adviser, and LEWIS SAWYER, Graduate Development Partner, outline how Kingston University’s Careers and Employability Service has reaped the benefits of employing students as career coordinators. At Kingston, our goal is to ensure all service users have a welcoming and valuable experience. Just like other career services up and down the country seeking to enhance engagement, we consistently try to develop innovative and attractive ways of reaching the largest population of students and graduates through a blend of specific, targeted schemes and general service activities. The perennial question is how to eradicate barriers to engagement in order to maximise reach?

One key barrier we identified through research and focus groups was that students did not feel comfortable engaging with the service, with some reporting feeling intimidated. In response to this, over the last three years we have developed a new role, the Student Career Coordinator (SCC), whose primary purpose is to help increase the relatability and authenticity of our offer to current students. Through our work with SCCs we are able to incorporate the student voice into service design. Our aims are to break down barriers to engagement, demystify the Careers and Employability Service and decrease the levels of intimidation students may feel when seeking support. When choosing our SCCs, we settled on ten part time positions at twelve hours per week, paid at the undergraduate student rate for the university. We focused on specialist roles tailored to our specific service needs, including content designers, faculty and employer engagement specialists, and information and advice providers. We also worked hard to ensure the students selected were truly representative of a cross section of the university’s diverse population: students need to see themselves represented in the career coordinators working with us. By having a diverse mix of students, we have been able to access a stream of live feedback and commentary to help enrich our development of new programmes. This approach is invaluable as it allows us as a service to hear the truth about our programmes as they are being formed, from the very people who will be accessing them. By listening to our SCCs and asking them to gather feedback, it helped us to change one key aspect of our graduate support approach: we moved from viewing sign-up numbers as a key indicator of success and instead are focussing on curation of quality learning content.

"I was inspired to apply for the SCC role to combine my previous experience as a teacher, the skills I am gaining through my degree and my personal life experience to help my peers in preparation for their next step after they/we graduate. I specifically chose to apply for the faculty support role because I could see potential in being a positive and informative communicational bridge between students, faculty members and the Careers and Employability Service. The SCC role is a great opportunity to work around your studies and has given me a great insight into potential career paths after graduation." Charlee Thomas-Haynes Student Career Coordinator


SERVICE VISION Throughout a changing landscape, we have been able to trial different ways of working with our SCCs, to further enhance the student experience and the way they interact with us. We began with a small group of students employed primarily to provide information and complete front desk duties. However, we quickly released that they could be much more beneficial to the overall vision of the service, which led us to focus their energies on areas such as marketing and communications, and advice and guidance.

"I have seen huge value from working with a faculty-aligned SCC. I have involved Charlee in our weekly faculty team meetings, where she provides the student perspective on our ideas and initiatives, along with insights into student perceptions of our service. I have also involved Charlee and other SCCs in the delivery of our skills workshops and our event management, where they have provided input into how we can promote our initiatives to a wider student audience." Careers and Employability Service representative

We hear the truth about our programmes as they are being formed, from the very people who will be accessing them More recently, during the course of the pandemic, the overall goals of our SCCs shifted slightly to support the digital offer we had to create in response to lockdown. This academic year we have focussed their efforts on becoming more specialised in the support they offer to the service whilst ensuring the skills they develop at university are being put into practice. Empowering students and graduates to become independent decision makers and confident career planners lies at the heart of our approach. Inviting SCCs to create and collaborate on ideas has helped to make our programmes and service delivery more robust. In the future we are looking forward to expansion, increasing visibility and more in-curricular presence.



peer-to-peer support


SAM ROSS, PhD student in Leadership and Followership at the University of St Andrews, reflects on her employment experience at the Careers Centre and the impact this had on her identity as she moved from student to professional. I discovered I had been successfully appointed as the Work Shadowing Coordinator at the University of St Andrews Careers Centre as I was waiting for a lecture to begin. I was elated. I had been searching for a different type of part time job as soon as I arrived in my university town, seeking a role that would offer me something more than the waitressing role I found myself in. Although I didn’t recognise this at the time, I was embracing a shift away from developing my student identity, exploring instead my underlying professional values of career progression and reward. I knew that part time work, particularly within my own institution, could provide an outlet to develop my own professional identity alongside that of an academic student. The Careers Centre became an arena of identity development for me, and many other student interns.

FUTURE SELF The Work Shadowing Coordinator post was flexible and creative. I was responsible for connecting alumni and current students to obtain in-demand, one-off work shadowing opportunities. Throughout my role, I helped students identify the right placements for them and developed a relationship with hosts (alumni). However, working in the Careers Centre gave me much more than that. I experienced an office atmosphere for the first time, honed diplomatic email responses in challenging situations, and found myself giving advice to other institutions based on my own innovations. A pivotal moment for me was when I was giving advice to a student and she asked when I was planning to leave the role “because I think I’m a little bit beyond waitressing, and I’m more suited to this type of job”. It occurred to me that, not only had I become the professional (the person being paid to deliver key information), but I had also become the future person I had been working towards. Peers assumed I was in a graduate post, and I really felt that wedge between my student-identity and careersidentity.


With the ending of my undergraduate degree and the beginning of my master’s, I closed the door to my first role, handing over the reins to another student for whom we identified the post as an opportunity to develop. Pastures new brought CV advising to my doorstep: another formal role, which saw students employed to review the CVs, cover letters and LinkedIn profiles of peers, introducing a new type of appointment to the service. Offering two appointment slots per week and throughout the entirety of the semester, I relied on the professionalism I had developed thus far, and unlocked one of the most valuable skills I’ve developed to date – listening! Moving away from the concentrated delivery of information, these 15-minute appointments gave me the space to become much more questioning and curious about the feelings and attitudes of student-clients.

FUSING IDENTITIES Whereas my first role allowed me to exercise a professional identity, the peer-to-peer support I was giving through CV and cover letter advice also featured elements of active listening and coaching, which fused together my student, personal and professional values. It meant that my identity resembled more of a colour-changing line – colour coded to the activity I was engaging in at the time, but blending together every so often.

I had become the future person I had been working towards By delivering peer-to-peer support, I stopped turning my ‘student’ off, and brought my whole self to the appointment room in a liminal approach to advice. This was especially salient during application deadlines: it felt like a full-circle moment to empathise with my peers’ fears about their CV, but also be equipped to give advice and allay those worries. This feeling continues into my own PhD study today. As research participants share their stories with me, I find myself pulling out tricks from my CV-advising identity, negotiating potential theories and ways forward for the tricky workplace scenarios they find themselves in. Delivering peer-to-peer support creates a complex and enjoyable identity experiment for student-advisers, moving beyond the expected line of employment experience on one’s CV. For me, working within the Careers Centre provided an outlet away from the hustle and bustle of student life, and later, an opportunity to develop a professional style which continues to evolve in new workplace settings. Follow Sam on Twitter

Mindful of the barriers that student carers experience, our interns ensured that the module would support student carers to recognise and articulate the skills gained from their caring role. They also wanted to increase awareness of the range of employers who value experience developed through caring responsibilities.

delivering enhanced support


Throughout the module student carers are encouraged to consider how aspects of their caring responsibilities are transferable to the workplace. Case studies by student carers, graduates, and employers are incorporated along with information on university support for student carers.

INSIGHTS FROM LIVED EXPERIENCE From the outset we planned for the internship to be flexible around the interns’ study and caring commitments. As a virtual internship, we met regularly with the interns via Zoom to ensure they were supported and the project stayed on track.

ANNA SELWOOD and NICOLA SUTHERLAND, Senior Careers and Employability Consultants at the University of Strathclyde, describe their collaboration with the Widening Access Team and two student interns who are carers. The interns developed a module to reflect the experiences and needs of student carers, with the aim of building confidence in articulating the skills gained from their caring experience to future employers. Student carers face many barriers in higher education. Their dual roles as carer and student can seem mutually exclusive, with the former often invisible and undervalued. Research suggests student carers often struggle to find employment that fits around their caring duties and that young adult carers are four times more likely to drop out of their study than their peers. Student carers also lack the time to take part in extracurricular activities, attend careers events or engage with prospective employers. To address these issues, the University of Strathclyde Careers Service and Widening Access Team were awarded funding from the Alumni Development Fund to employ two student carers as interns. We asked them to evaluate our current non-credit bearing career development module, available to students at every level, and create content for a bespoke version for student carers.

MODULE STRUCTURE Hosted on the university’s virtual learning environment (VLE), the Student Carer Career Development module is open to all student carers. Through interactive and reflective activities, the module provides students with an understanding of the processes of career choice and career development, as well as the graduate labour market and recruitment processes.

The insights that the interns brought from their lived experience as student carers was invaluable. Their professionalism throughout the internship and the resources they developed surpassed our expectations. Many of the suggestions they provided from evaluating the generic career development module have been applied to wider careers service resources, further ensuring they are inclusive for all students. An example of this has been the expansion of information and resources on our dedicated Equality and Diversity web pages. The interns reported increased confidence in their skills, with one attributing their success in gaining full time employment to the internship.

"The internship renewed my confidence in my skills and reminded me that my experience is valuable from a labour market perspective. This was particularly pertinent to me, as I had spent over a year out of employment after taking voluntary redundancy to become a carer."

Student intern The Student Carer module has been promoted widely across the university, providing an opportunity to remind academic staff that student carers often require additional support. Warmly received across the institution, the project has since led to a proposal to collaborate on the development of resources for estranged students. Connect with Anna on LinkedIn Connect with Nicola on LinkedIn @CareersHass



students as connectors:


JASMIN TSE, Placements and Work Experience Officer in Careers & Entrepreneurship at the University of Sussex, line-managed the first cohort of Placement Connectors in 2020-21. The team went on to win the AGCAS Supporting Student and Graduate Employability Award in 2021 for their work towards prioritising students as co-creators. Here, she outlines how student-led co-creation and innovation in service delivery has had a positive influence on students’ experiences of placements. The University of Sussex’s World Readiness and Employability Strategy centres on co-creation to maximise engagement. It outlines how students will be active agents in furthering their own world readiness by designing, co-creating and leading activity for their peers and each other. The university-wide Connector Programme sees students and staff working together as equal partners to improve the student experience. The programme, funded by the university’s Access and Participation Plan (APP), offers accessible paid roles to a diverse student body, providing a structured mechanism for students to make meaningful contributions. Inclusion and diversity are at the heart of the programme; no formal work experience is required to apply.

The Connector Programme provides a structured mechanism for students to make meaningful contributions PAGE 14

When the Connector Programme launched in 2020, Careers & Entrepreneurship were one of the first teams to submit a bid. Our strategy was to recruit a Placement Connector in each school of study. As current students, Placement Connectors could use their understanding of popular activities and effective communication with their peers to maximise engagement. Students seeking placements could also access advice and support from those who had first-hand experience and shared similar career aspirations. 14 placement returners were employed as Connectors, placed at the forefront of our service delivery and embedded in Careers & Entrepreneurship and academic departments. They worked to a single aim to support second-year placement searchers, drawing on their first-hand experiences of placement search. Despite turbulent times, the Placement Connectors contributed to a 23% increase in the number of placements secured. Much of this positive impact can be attributed to the innovative, student-led, student-centred programme of support.

"During my time as a Connector, I was a part of a wide range of projects that gave me the opportunity to positively influence students who were beginning their journey in securing a placement. It is very rewarding seeing the impact Connectors have on students and how the support we provided kept students motivated to continue their placement journey, whether that was through focus groups that we led as a team or the relationships we developed on a peer-to-peer level. This subsequently enhanced my own employability as I was able to develop an array of skills through team tasks and independent projects that supported students’ placement progress."

Mila Past Placement Connector

The Sussex team with the AGCAS Award for Supporting Student and Graduate Employability 2021

SERVICE INNOVATION Ultimately, the role of the Placement Connectors is to facilitate service innovation by bringing new perspectives and ideas. The group’s first task – to create, organise and host the first virtual MidWay Meet Up for on-placement students – was intentionally set as a substantial, complex project, designed to establish Connectors as a cohesive team. It required the Connectors to work with key stakeholders in their Schools and the Careers & Entrepreneurship team to establish meaningful relationships with crucial colleagues. Attendees’ feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and many mentioned how helpful it was to interact with the Connectors, whose placements had also been impacted by the pandemic. A main source of innovation is the trust between stakeholders. The staff team respects Connectors’ expertise and experience, and we take care to foster an open, creative environment. We seriously consider every idea, which empowers the team to create and deliver innovative projects. Importantly, Connectors recognise their work as being innovative, and enjoy being trailblazers. They responded extremely positively when being empowered to create and develop their own programme of support for placement searchers and this has had an immediate, positive impact on service-users.

"The Placement Connector programme is quite possibly the most innovative, empowering, and transformative initiative that we have undertaken during my four years as the placement lead in the Department of Economics. Connectors bridge the gap between academics and students with real world experience of the labour market as it currently is. They have an invaluable ability to put their fellow students at ease in a way that few other members of the university can. This removes barriers and empowers students from diverse backgrounds to engage with the placement process. It is a testament to the value added by our Connectors that just one year into the programme the number of economics students to successfully secure a placement doubled. " Dr. C. Rashaad Shabab Academic lead for economics placements Senior Lecturer in Economics

"I benefited from Placement Connectors as part of my placement search on multiple occasions. During the early stages of my search, they helped give some really great advice on where to start. I came into the process thinking I had missed the boat and that it would be really stressful and time sensitive. However, the Connectors helped me realise that I still had plenty of time and offered some great advice on how to work around the common issues and stresses that students face every year. Their support also played a significant part in me accepting my offer. The Connectors provided an excellent alternative to a careers consultant when I needed to discuss an offer on a short deadline. The careers team is great but sometimes it’s easier to speak to fellow students. Their experiences in deciding which offer to accept gave me new ideas to think about and ultimately helped me make the right decision.

The most significant advantage for me is that the Connectors have recently been through the process themselves. The impact of Covid resulted in large changes to the application process: speaking to students who were on placement throughout the pandemic meant they had an up-to-date understanding of the steps I would have to go through. Having just come off a placement themselves, Connectors understand the stresses and issues you may be facing and can provide relevant advice. " Jacob Placement Searcher Currently on placement at Pfizer Connect with Jasmin on LinkedIn


walking in their shoes:


KATIE CLIFF, Head of the Careers and Employability Service at Leeds Beckett University, outlines how student ambassadors have been invaluable to shaping service delivery and enhancing outreach. At the start of 2021, a much-talked about collaboration – partnership working with our students – became a reality. To date, we have employed 9 Careers Ambassadors, working set hours per week, throughout the academic year. The students we recruited identified with one or more of the characteristics defined by our Access and Participation Plan (APP).

CHALLENGING PRACTICE Working with our student team has challenged the fundamentals of our practice to consider where we begin in developing our offer and how it evolves. A current team member brings this example to life. Emma, in her final year, identifies as a student with a hidden disability. She is acutely aware of her anxieties around transitioning from the supported university environment into an unfamiliar working culture. To explore a support offer that speaks to those concerns, she has worked alongside our team and an external partner, leading us to take a deep dive into the hopes and fears of students with a disability through facilitated discussions. Themes emerging from these discussions have shaped the agenda of the activity and support that follows. This has driven students to become active participants, many of whom we previously hadn’t reached. Undoubtedly, Emma helped to present the offer using language and tone that resonated with our intended audience. Emma is not only maintaining that connection with students but also growing our overall engagement. Finally, she has forged the connection with our Disability Advice Team and worked with our Student Union to contribute to their accessibility toolkit, #DoItMyWay. Together, we are delivering a connected offer to our students.


"Many students with disabilities feel pushed to the side or ignored, but the transition to employment events have given them the opportunity to use their voice, helping them realise they are not alone in this journey."


REAL WORLD EXPERIENCE Stepping into the shoes of others comes to life in a particularly compelling way through our evolving activity to support students who are care experienced. David joined our team in February. Having passed through the care system himself, he was a few months away from moving out of university accommodation, without any firm plans. During this time, we had been working with UNITE Foundation on a transition programme to take final year students through a series of activities, linking up careers guidance with connectors to assist with practical transitions. David’s input to this proposal, informed by his own personal experience, completely reversed the approach we had initially put forward. His questions and challenges re-framed the proposition to one-to-one interaction, with David leading those student conversations, working with their most urgent challenges, then later guiding them into individual coaching with our team.

"The students I have spoken to have appreciated the contact. I tell them I am also a student, and it puts them at ease. They are more honest and open in the conversation."


There is no doubt that this work has been tough. In handling sensitive situations, staff at times feel an imposter to students’ experiences. While we made limited progress in the final few months of the 2020/21 academic year, the one-to-one personalised approach has been in place right from the start of this academic year. Again, using our ambassadors to reach out and make connections with students, investing in building the peer relationship and then linking them into our careers offer, when the time is right.

Working with our student team has challenged the fundamentals of our practice

AMPLIFYING THE STUDENT VOICE One of the most liberating aspects of the work with our student team – and the most visible externally – has been in building our social media activity. For most universities I’m sure, it’s now one of the most common call-ups with employers looking for expert input from students to grow their own digital footprint. We passed on a similar brief to Lucia who has, over the last few months, been in student takeover mode. Mentored by our internal marketing expert, Lucia has been regularly contributing to the content posted, considering the tone, the call to action, and framing our activity in a way that would best appeal. No holds barred! Numbers have grown to over 1,000 on Instagram and Lucia has been building a dedicated group on LinkedIn. This has surfaced the burgeoning opportunities presented by employer partners and suppliers linked to the diversity and inclusion agenda, and built a target audience to whom they directly appeal.

"Social media is a powerful way to reach students. Using students to actually create the content has meant we are speaking to them in a way that is relatable and using peer influencers encourages them to take action." Lucia

DEVELOPING FUTURE TALENT Aside from the value that our Student Ambassadors are giving to their peers, in feedback reviews they have articulated the personal progression they have gained from the opportunity to undertake professional work experience that develops skills in leading and motivating others, managing time, delivering to objectives, presenting with confidence, and interacting with both internal and external professionals. The quality of the student talent we have at Leeds Beckett is a source of pride for our team, strengthened by our own experiences of harnessing it. It is a positive message to share with employers: that we have confidence in our students and graduates. This firsthand experience has brought a shift in mindset where the emphasis is now on empowering our students to lead us. Connect with Katie on LinkedIn

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placing students at the heart


CAROLINA SALINAS, Head of Student and Graduate Employability, outlines how Staffordshire University is the first non-Russell Group university to pioneer one-to-one careers provision delivered by existing, paid and trained students. Based on principles of student voice and co-creation, this model empowers Career Coaches and supports the enhancement of wider service impact in the curriculum.


Staffordshire University Careers Service moved to the creation of student Career Coach roles in 2019 with the aim of increasing student engagement, participation and voice within the service. We currently have ten student Career Coaches in place. This flips the traditional model, placing students at the heart of careers delivery and appointment interactions. Our Career Coach recruitment and induction processes, and ongoing training supervised by an Employability Manager, ensures the highquality delivery of one-to-one guidance across the student journey. To optimise relatability, Careers Coaches are selected from different study programmes, ages, socio-economic backgrounds and with different learning experiences.

HOLDING SPACE The move to peer-to-peer career coaching creates and holds space for staff and students to work together, and grants students the opportunity for greater agency and decision making. We collaborate with students to design their own learning and incorporate their perspectives, whilst freeing up the time and focus of the professional careers team to work in the curriculum in partnership with academic schools to deliver careers support to large student groups. We have overcome a perceived adviser/student barrier, increasing the uptake of one-to-one careers support. We saw a dramatic increase in student engagement, up by 94% during the first semester after launch (pre-Covid), and high levels of student satisfaction with the careers support they receive, with an average of 95%. We have also seen, with delight, an increase in engagement from non-traditional student groups (55% widening participation, 33% BAME, and 26% with a declared disability).

MEANINGFUL EXPERIENCES Students tell us that they feel more confident discussing their career planning with other students, and more relaxed sharing personal challenges. Academic tutors support this approach, referring students to talk with trained student peers who can help with career questions and coaching. We see students becoming ‘change agents’, where different perspectives and personal experiences are shared across what have previously been subject silos, influencing peers’ learning by bringing to life the transferability of employability and life skills. Co-creating with students, and between students, gives them agency over their learning and helps to develop self-direction, confidence, creativity and critical thinking skills. This creates meaningful learning experiences for students and practitioners, and increases student engagement in career readiness. Career Coaches tell us that they are learning how to work with and influence others, articulating their perspectives in different ways. This ‘learning by osmosis’ is enhanced by being in a professional peer-to-peer space and is even more impactful for students from lower socio-economic and widening participation backgrounds, critical for Staffordshire’s student demographic.

Students are encouraged to bring friends to their career appointments COMMUNITIES AND CONNECTIONS One very definite positive outcome has been the organic creation of communities of practice among students. Communities of peer learning have emerged as staff and students work together to tackle problems around career readiness and as part of the peerto-peer coaching process. For example, around mental health, system improvements or employer interaction. It is our responsibility as career practitioners to create space for social learning and innovation through peer-to peer interaction. Recently, our Career Coaches have supported the design of an innovative buddying initiative where students are encouraged to bring friends to their career appointments, either in-person or online. As part of this initiative, a funding pot for travel expenses was created for students to accompany a friend to job interviews, for moral support and reassurance.

TAKING OWNERSHIP We have, however, faced some challenges around flexibility and scalability. The learning and value added to the service is gradual and achieved by incrementally increasing complexity, exposure to uncertainty and autonomy until Career Coaches can take full ownership for delivering the service. The logistics are also challenging when coordinating service delivery around Coaches’ part time availability. However, the benefits outweigh the challenges for us. Co-creation is about mindset and intention to hold the space for it to happen. Working in partnership with students breaks down barriers, increases engagement and innovation, ultimately enabling students to support each other to realise their career aspirations and potential.


students on the inside:


Career events feel less like work and more like play JAN SPALEK, Employer Engagement Manager at the University of Leeds Careers Centre, and PHOEBE SWANWICK, REGO PAL and TILLY SCOTT, who are all student interns, outline the many positive effects of employing students as full time members of staff and discuss how harnessing student networks and using peer influence improved the impact of their services. The University of Leeds Careers Centre has benefitted from having students as staff members for several years. Ranging from welcome desk support roles and short-term internships, to one-year-long placements and even graduate roles, students have made a tremendous contribution at both an operational and strategic level.

EXPERT ADVICE Careers services nationwide often aspire to the engagement, attendance and vibrancy achieved by Students’ Unions. Since Students’ Unions are run by students for students, the deployment of student interns in careers services may just help achieve that. Their motivation and energy coupled with (some or lots of) accountability, trust and staff guidance is a good mix to ‘jazz up’ the way we do things. For example, in our Employer Engagement Team, using expert advice from our interns, we recently updated the way we describe events using more student-friendly language. We also changed the delivery of most employer-led events to being fully moderated in a bid to ensure that our offer is met with a positive student response. And it worked! Our bookings increased by 120% and so did attendance (by 40%) as well as engagement (students actively asking questions, even turning their cameras on).


EDUTAINMENT We have all had cause to question why some events, initiatives or programmes are better attended than others. Our interns tell us: students like fun and entertainment, engagement, and participation. Make them laugh and, while their mouths are still open, throw some wisdom in. It will be remembered for a long time – and they will be back for more. The informality, relatability and fun that students as co-creators bring to our programming helps us tap into a student body that wouldn’t normally engage with our offer. We call it 'edutainment': where personal stories, (lots of) icebreakers, a keen interest in your audience and the occasional bit of joking and lighthearted banter with employers and recruiters mean that career events feel less like work and more like play. And, of course, we still deliver on the main aims to ensure students are aware of the latest job market trends, how to prepare for assessment centres, and apply for a job.

"As Careers staff we felt it was important to practise what we preach and employ our students. Little did we know what a huge difference this would make and, more importantly, what a joy too. Our student interns bring enthusiasm, honesty, endless ideas and fun to our teams. We simply couldn't do without them."

Sarah Goldstone, Work Placement Officer



One benefit student interns bring is relatability; helping to reduce the intensity and often complexity of careers information delivery. In our online ‘Meet the Myth-Busters' event we busted myths about our virtual careers fairs to encourage participation, increase engagement and of course motivate students to attend upcoming fairs. Organised and fronted by student interns, using colourful slides, with entertaining analogies and including their own personal careers experiences, this was a refreshing change to standard university communication, which students see on a daily basis, helping to create a non-pressured atmosphere.

"Firstly, being a student means we can harness practical knowledge about where on campus it is best to engage in promotional activities. We know which places, buildings and rooms have the highest student usage, and can place posters and leaflets in these areas to increase student reach. Additionally, we have been found to be more approachable to students; during on-campus promotion many of them came to us to ask for careers advice or for insights about our services. This is partly due to the increased visibility of the Careers Centre but also to our more pro-active approach.

We noticed an increase of 40% in student attendance and engagement at these events compared to previous staff-led events. Attendees also asked many questions and emphasised how they felt more relaxed, confident and comfortable in an environment that felt more like a conversation with peers.

TANGIBLE IMPACT Employing student interns helps break down the barriers between careers staff and students and provides us with new insights into what the student population want to see. It is impossible to ignore the tangible impact (increased event attendance, better student engagement, increased attractiveness of our services) students have had on our service. Student interns help build better student relationships, suggest creative marketing techniques and better ways to describe what we do, bring exciting new ideas, and much more – all of which helps step up the effectiveness, reach and relevance of our offer and, we hope, for students and graduates makes the world of work seem that little less daunting.

With the vast number of emails sent by various university departments, the Careers Centre needs to compete for students' time by communicating in a friendly and exciting tone. That is why we have been contributing to student communications by writing engaging weekly newsletters, alongside doing Q&A’s and takeovers on Instagram, which has positively impacted our ever-growing student following. As students ourselves, we know what we would like to see and how we would like to see it, making it relatable for students to connect with.

Additionally, our promotional activities have benefitted from our personal student networks such as societies, course mates and more. These networks provide a quick and efficient way of marketing events, as well as collecting feedback on the effectiveness of our promotion. We can also deliver messages to students who otherwise would not have been reached. " Connect with Jan on LinkedIn Connect with Phoebe on LinkedIn Connect with Rego on LinkedIn Connect with Tilly on LinkedIn


Yet there are still many challenges when putting partnership into practice for careers services (some of which have arisen due to Covid-19), which persist to create bumps in the road and even dislodge partnership as a realistic aim in our teams.

the co-designed careers service:


TOM LOWE, Head of Student Engagement and Employability at the University of Winchester, reflects on the movement of co-designing students’ higher education experience and considers how university careers services can work successfully with students as partners. Aspiring to increase our partnership work with students in higher education has remained a focus for educational developers, students’ unions and management teams for the last ten years. The principals of partnership outlined by Healey, Flint and Harrington (2014) have stood the test of time and rallied support behind its values: authenticity, inclusivity, reciprocity, empowerment, trust, challenges, community and responsibility. The movement of co-design and partnership has encouraged more staff and their services to work with students to create a more student-centred higher education. Theoretically positioning students as partners, rather than consumers or customers, has been well received, creating an ethos of dialogue, empathy, collaboration and reciprocity.

Student partnership can be more difficult for service elements of universities to facilitate where student engagement may be less frequent PAGE 22

WHERE HAS THERE BEEN SUCESS? Much of the movement towards co-designing the student experience through working with students as partners came from three areas of influence. The first was a growing move towards working with students in educational developments in learning and teaching teams, leading to a vast sum of scholarship on the topic. The second was the push from students’ unions for their representatives to be taken more seriously and take part in wider university processes. The third was universities themselves being quick to receive these students’ union wishes, as working with students as partners is far more desirable than students seeing themselves as fee-paying customers or activists. Students as partners work has been successful in committee membership roles, expanding into more intensive roles such as members of quality approval panels nationwide and even university interview panels. Co-design and partnership has also been successful in some academic courses at universities, or between academic staff and students, where the student-staff relationship has been positive and conversations about education are accessible. However, student partnership can be more difficult for service elements of universities to facilitate where student engagement may be less frequent, service-based and/or transactional.

KEY CONSIDERATIONS So what does the current body of co-design and partnership research tell us? Firstly, we need to take on board the values outlined earlier, and seriously. We cannot be hierarchical, we must be ready and open to negative feedback, and we have to be patient – students may not want to engage how we want them to. We need to ensure there is equity of opportunities to engage with our co-design initiatives, such as running events online, at several different times of the day, and in the locations where our students occupy.

Secondly, we need to be mindful of our student demographics and ensure we are engaging a diversity of students rather than just traditional students who represent those more advantaged in our institutions. We must be critical of the representativeness of the students who do engage to check that we are not changing our services based on the views of three students rather than the wider student body. Finally, we’ve got to be ready for it to be difficult, for the conversations to become risky and to recognise our positions of power to make change but also that we can be intimidating to our students as members of staff.

Are there some areas where we cannot work with students in partnership? OVERCOMING THE CHALLENGES So, how do we overcome the challenges when we are recruiting for a Careers Service Advisory Panel, running a careers feedback event, or opening applications for a student member of a Board of Directors? We must first break down barriers to application methods, not always relying on written applications as we know many students are not yet at a stage where they know how to write a top personal statement – perhaps these are the students we need to be engaging to better ourselves? Next, we need to be mindful of the contact time of our feedback opportunities. Do we need to ask students to volunteer endless time? Do we make it quick and easy (like surveys) for students to participate? What are the pros and cons of casual versus intensive partnership? And do we pay, but risk the students becoming employees and losing their voice? Finally, we need to ask ourselves, do we want to take a co-design approach to everything we do across our whole service? Are there some areas where we cannot work with students in partnership?

TOP TIPS FOR SUCCESS When considering embarking on a student engagement project, study or discussion, here are seven considerations to be thinking about (adapted from Lowe & El Hakim, 2020) 1. Start with the why What are you trying to do? Improve accessibility to your service? Work with students to run events to boost attendance? 2. Consider your values Write out your projects’ values. Are they student-centred, inclusive, aiming to engage diverse students and staff? 3. Be flexible Your project or scheme will not run exactly the same as another institution’s. It will be become individual, mould itself into your institutional culture and take its own shape. No one model fits all, so do not be frustrated when it does not work perfectly the first time. 4. Evaluate with caution Evaluating student engagement initiatives is messy. Testing the impact of an intervention in any individual student’s experience of higher education is incredibly difficult, owing to the number of unknown variables that cannot be controlled. Do not be disheartened if you do not see an ‘impact’, because often you simply know it did great things. Pursue and gather mixed, experimental data and tell the personal stories of the students and staff involved. 5. Continuously reflect Reflective practice tells us a great deal about improving how we work in many professions and the same is true of student engagement. Reflect on who you are engaging and how you are engaging; ask if your practices and approaches are accessible to the diverse student body; reflect on your values and aims, to see if you are still doing what you set out to do. 6. Try again Nothing works as you expect when trying it for the first time. It is important to reflect and try the initiative, forum or study again, for small changes can have a large impact. Keep trying, stay persistent and have conversations with students, asking why they thought the project went the way it did. Connect with Tom on LinkedIn @TomLowe


embedding employability and enterprise


PROFESSOR KAREN HEARD-LAURÉOTE, Head of Learning and Teaching, and MEREDITH SMITH, Deputy Head of Student Experience (Careers), at Solent University, outline how a group of students were connected with academic course teams and central services to ensure the effective embedding of employability and enterprise in learning and teaching delivery through targeted interventions. As a teaching-focused and widening participation university, we are, and have for a long time, been strategically committed to working in partnership with students to enrich learning and teaching. We want our students to be active change agents who work collaboratively with staff to co-produce knowledge. Aligned to this commitment, in June 2020 we recruited six students to the position of Solent Student Inclusive Curriculum Consultant (SSICC) to work centrally in the Solent Learning and Teaching Institute (SLTI). These positions are paid and contracts run for three months before the employment opportunity is opened-up again to others. We are now in our third recruiting round having grown the pool to 14 students.

ACADEMIC DEVELOPMENT The initial purpose of the role was to work collaboratively with members of academic staff to help them consider how online modules, developed to respond to the online pivot triggered by the first Covid-19 lockdown, could be made inclusive and accessible to all learners. The students come from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds, with interests in equality and diversity, but no previous experience of academic development.


Over the course of the intervening months, the scope of the SSICC role has grown to encapsulate other key institutional priority areas, including the drafting of a university-wide Student Partnership Policy and, more importantly in a careers context, improving institutional Graduate Outcomes data.

KEY INNOVATIONS SLTI and Solent Futures (our central careers service) have collaborated and partnered with SSICCs to develop two key innovations. The first is the Solent Living CV programme. This initiative enables students to translate course and module learning outcomes and work experience into CV language so that they can build a growing collection of skills and achievements for employment applications and to support their career. Through SSICC involvement in the construction of the student-facing Living CV online platform, we have been able to ensure that we collectively produce a tool which is user friendly and intuitive, as well as being sound and robust.

"Living CV is a great and very thorough range of materials that can help build different types of CVs to cater for a wide variety of jobs and industries. There is a rich bank of information, hints and tips for getting your CV right for a range of employment types, embedding understanding of transferable skills learnt during your time at Solent and preparing for work after graduation. This practical toolkit will help support all students create an understanding of the skills they are developing whilst at uni, from both their course and activities outside of uni, in a digestible and clear way."

Solent Student Inclusive Curriculum Consultant

The second innovation is a package of course-specific careers content by level of study on our online learning platform, designed to support students to be work, world and future ready. This is presented in the form of an Employability and Enterprise Journey of an undergraduate student whereby, at each level of study, students acquire knowledge about the skills and attributes they should be developing. Students are then directed through a series of activities to develop their self-efficacy and self-confidence, enabling them to position themselves within the context of professional conversations as having acquired those skills and attributes.

"The content is extremely helpful and provides students with the tools to make them future-ready, right from when they start their degree. From engaging websites to videos, there's something for everyone. The sector-specific links to employer sites are very useful, particularly for job searches and career development beyond life at Solent."

Solent Student Inclusive Curriculum Consultant

POSITION OF STRENGTH Our experience tells us that to effectively evolve student partnership working and co-creation, it is essential to build longer lead-times into academic development intervention delivery to ensure sufficient space for effective collaboration. It is also essential that, as a sector, we partner and co-create from a position of strength, therefore sufficient space must be accorded to train and develop students in order that they feel empowered to collaborate. Moreover, the partnership must be genuine and authentic, moving beyond the narrative of consultation whereby students say, and universities listen – often partially – by integrating comments as part of an oftentimes incomplete feedback loop. Instead, we must optimise the potential for working in genuine and meaningful partnership with students to actively create solutions to the key challenges facing higher education, such as positive employability and enterprise outcomes for all our students and a strengthened sense of career readiness. Going forward, we are looking to further embed co-creation with students to develop and enhance our employability and enterprise materials, to gather student insight on their useability and usage, and to continue to embed employability within the curriculum through good practice case studies.

We want our students to be active change agents who work collaboratively with staff to co-produce knowledge


We wanted to go beyond the established mechanisms for student feedback

listening to the student voice?


JILL VALENTINE and HELEN FAUSET, both Senior Employability Advisers, reflect on the development of a project designed by Sheffield Hallam University’s Careers and Employability Service to ensure that student voices are heard and responded to. You can’t get it right all the time, but you do have a better chance if you have conscientious students working with you, acting as your ears and eyes, representing the views and opinions of the wider student community. As a result of Covid-19, like all careers services, we were forced to think creatively, think imaginatively, and think fast. How were we to deliver a tailored, robust and dynamic careers and employability offer to over 35,000 students from the back bedroom, overnight?

ENHANCED PARTICIPATION It was from such a big ask that the Student Voice Leader (SVL) project began to take shape. We needed a forum to be able to craft and deliver innovative employability programmes and packages to students quickly and effectively. We also wanted to offer students the opportunity for enhanced participation in our work, going beyond the established mechanisms for student feedback and offering an immersive and empowering employment experience. And so began the project in October 2020.


We sought 12 dedicated students who cared about the growth of the service and were committed to our range of programmes. These included support for international students and soon-to-be graduates, central workshops, employability awards and appointments, and curriculum-based placements and applied projects. We worked with colleagues in the Student Engagement and Evaluation Research team, who helped us to recruit a diverse group of students. The final 12 students worked tirelessly on their project strands and as a Student Voice Advisory Committee (SVAC), providing invaluable group discussions crucial to the service.

THE SECRET INGREDIENTS It is now, a year later, as our SVL programme launches for the second time, that we can reflect on the ‘secret ingredients’. Mentoring was invaluable and provided to each student from a member of the project team once a fortnight, giving the SVLs time to talk through tasks, identify barriers and plan. Working collaboratively helped to build connectivity and confidence in our students, whilst utilising students in workshops, events and planning meetings enabled us to develop student-centred programmes. In parallel, the SVLs were engaged in capturing wider student perceptions relating to their employability projects and were tasked with determining how to ensure our employability offer was engaging, accessible and inclusive. As a group, the SVAC collaborated on a final report, which summarised themes and recommendations for each of the project strands. This culminated in a presentation to managers, providing a developmental opportunity for the students and an opportunity to demonstrate their professionalism and dedication. Being part of a group offered a sense of belonging and connection at a time when many were feeling isolated owing to the remote university experience necessitated by the pandemic.

MEANINGFUL CHANGES The impact of the SVLs was far-reaching. Their input altered the tone and pitch of our messaging about the programme of employability support for the Class of 2021. The SVLs identified that an impersonal, formal tone could lead to some students being put off. As a result, our digital career learning resources and placement portal have been transformed with slicker, more usercentric interfaces – a well-received transformation that was evidenced by increased usage figures. Student feedback for Achieve, our career readiness programme for international students, resulted in a refresh of the programme for 2021/2. This included an increased focus on development of confidence and resilience, a significant drive to reach more students, and the development of a hybrid approach encompassing remote and face-to-face input.

Being an SVL gave students a sense of belonging and pride as they saw their recommendations taken on board and implemented GAINS AND MERITS From a personal perspective, mentoring a SVL was a privilege. Seeing them embrace their work, and flourish as they navigated and overcame challenges, was inspiring. Evaluative interviews with colleagues highlighted the merits of this embedded approach as our SVLs challenged assumptions and traditions. Giving students a voice at meetings brought our purpose - to transform student lives sharply into focus, and we navigated the virtual university environment together.

"It made me feel valued as a student, it made me feel at ease on a course and that my opinions were heard, it made me feel that the [Careers and Employability] service was going to follow recommendations, adapt things and prioritise students’ needs."

Student Voice Leader Our SVLs were encouraged to contribute ideas, and these were genuinely valued. They reported gains in confidence, resilience, teamwork skills, time management, research skills, presentation skills, professional behaviours, and connectivity. Being an SVL gave them a sense of belonging and pride, as they saw their recommendations taken on board and implemented. Two of our 2020/1 SVLs successfully applied to re-join the programme again this year.

WHERE ARE WE NOW? In our second year we move from a research phase to an operational phase. We have kept the central driver to embed student voice into all aspects of our employability offer and intend to make significant changes to our delivery, drawing on our SVL's recommendations. An additional area of development has been to recruit ‘harder to reach’ students as SVLs. To ensure inclusion, we advertised through networks linked to at-risk students. We also ensured we had a cross section of home, international, undergraduate, and postgraduate students, which represented the diverse Sheffield Hallam student body. We look forward to working with our students over the next months, drawing on their perspectives to inform how we evolve our employability offer and contributing positively to the career narrative of each member of the SVL team.


Overall, the Peer Career Coach scheme has been a great success, resulting in 40 one-to-one appointments with two coaches last academic year, and with the role being recognised on their HEAR transcript. Originally just practice interview appointments, students fed back that they would prefer careers and application advice appointments instead. For this academic year, the Peer Career Coach scheme has recruited four coaches and is looking to increase the number of appointments to over 100.

students as co-creators:


It is highly encouraged to cocreate in-curriculum sessions with students IN-CURRICULUM INITIATIVES

STEFAN COUCH, Acting Team Manager and Careers Consultant at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), outlines how Careers and Enterprise places students at the heart of their offering, with students co-creating careers and employability education in roles that involve peer coaching and in-curriculum presence. At Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) we have developed a number of careers and employability related initiatives where our Careers and Enterprise team collaborate with students as cocreators, turning them into the ‘career superheroes’ the rest of our students can aspire to be.

PEER COACHING Law students in their second, penultimate and final years have the opportunity to become a Peer Career Coach. Coaches offer practical application support and career exploration discussions, mainly about options in the legal sector, helping prepare students for assessment centres and interviews. Coaches also co-deliver professional skills workshops throughout the year. To ensure they not only have the potential but are able to become great coaches, they go through a thorough recruitment process. Once hired, coaches then undergo in-depth training, which includes conducting interviews, providing feedback, unconscious bias, safeguarding and an overview of the legal profession. We also have check-in meetings throughout the year, to share tips, resources and to offer general support. Coaches review the programme at the end of the first and second semester and then complete a self-reflection form at the end of the programme. Students using the service also complete feedback forms after their appointment, which is shared with coaches.


Our aim is for all our students to embark on the EAST (Explore, Acquire, Show and Tell) career journey. In the Schools of Electronic Engineering & Computer Science (EECS) and Mathematical Sciences (SMS) it is highly encouraged to co-create in-curriculum sessions with students where possible. This academic year, I worked with a second year undergraduate SMS student, Ajinth Vimalathasa, to co-create a lecture for first year students. Ajinth was able to ‘Show’ how he had explored his options and acquired new work-related experiences during his first year and into his second year. The lecture demonstrated how achievable it is for students to ‘Explore’ their career options and ‘Acquire’ the experience they need and, ultimately, recognise that their career journey is not a sprint but a continuous marathon. The student audience gained valuable insights and left the lecture inspired by a peer ‘Telling’ their career-related story. This was a positive experience, not only for the great success experienced personally by Ajinth, but for me as the main lecturer, and for the students who attended.

"Be comfortable being uncomfortable! Yesterday for the first time, I stepped out of my comfort zone, and I spoke in front of a large audience with self-confidence! I had the fantastic opportunity to talk about my career journey progress at a QMUL School of Maths/Careers and Enterprise lecture to over 100 first year mathematicians." Ajinth Vimalathasa Our next steps are to formally incorporate a ‘career superhero’ into each in-curriculum session where our ‘EAST’ student career journey is the main focus. I plan to continue expanding how I collaborate, co-create and co-deliver with potential ‘career superheroes’ who are current students and alumni in EECS and SMS in the near future to inspire their peers’ future career thinking.

QUALITY ASSURANCE Inevitably, collaborating with anyone (even ‘career superheroes’) comes with challenges. Ensuring quality assurance when utilising students for co-delivery is vital. We provide, where appropriate, formal contracts so students understand the expectations we place upon them. For more informal co-creation and delivery, we support students through regular meetings so they feel comfortable and confident when co-creating and co-delivering content. We will continue to work in partnership with a cross section of the student body to enhance the delivery and impact of careers and employability support, extend reach, break down barriers, and improve the student experience. In the words of Professor Colin Bailey, President and Principal at QMUL: “There is a real opportunity, as we emerge from the pandemic, for universities to reset their ambition to co-create with their students the best education and experience possible, to ensure students can achieve their full potential in an uncertain world. At Queen Mary University, this is our foremost goal.” Is it really worth co-creating with students? The simple answer is a resounding yes! Get them to be the ‘career superheroes’ and inspire the future generation.

[With thanks to Afua Kudom for her contribution to this article]


Connect with Stefan on LinkedIn

We turn students into career superheroes



embracing the voices of autistic individuals


I was eager to do something to support autistic students in developing employability skills and preparedness for work. Recognising the importance of consulting and collaborating with those I was seeking to support, I first conducted a survey of autistic students to ask them what careers support they would like, including elements such as the format, topics and timing. Next, I recruited a group of six Autistic Student Consultants (ASCs), to help me analyse the findings of this survey. Together we designed a series of online workshops on the topics the autistic students had deemed to be of most importance to them: disclosure of their disability, reasonable adjustments, identifying disability-friendly employers, and hearing about the experiences of autistic graduates. The ASCs identified features that would help these workshops to be more inclusive, including recording the sessions and providing transcripts. It was also recognised that for some autistic students, asking questions in front of a group could cause anxiety and so I created a way for students to ask questions anonymously.

KEREN CONEY is a Careers & Employability Consultant at Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) and also a Postgraduate Researcher at the Autism Centre for Education & Research (ACER) at the University of Birmingham. Here, she outlines how she involved autistic students as consultants at all stages of a project that sought to develop targeted employability support and describes the ongoing positive impact of this engagement. Autism and, in particular, the challenges autistic individuals may experience when approaching the workplace, are often poorly understood - even amongst careers practitioners. The disappointing employment outcomes for autistic graduates in the UK (AGCAS 2021; Vincent 2020) highlight how these individuals are in danger of being marginalised. Unemployment is known to have negative effects on the mental health and even life prospects of autistic people (Remington & Pellicano 2019; Howlin and Moss 2012), whereas employment is known to have a positive impact on the quality of life of autistic individuals and to provide them with a means of social inclusion and opportunity to contribute to society (Walsh et al. 2014). The number of autistic students in UK universities is increasing year-on-year (Vincent & Fabri 2020). Given these rising numbers and the challenges faced by autistic graduates seeking to enter the workplace, it is important that consideration is given to what can be done to support these students to successfully progress to employment.

Participatory approaches are vital in order to ensure effective provision of careers support PAGE 30

POSITIVE SHIFTS The online workshops took place last spring. They involved a series of guest speakers with expertise and/or lived experience as autistic individuals who were succeeding in the workplace. From the data collected both before and after webinar delivery, a notable positive shift in the self-perceptions of the autistic students attending the webinars was observed, in terms of their knowledge of their legal rights and their understanding of disclosure and reasonable adjustments. I was also delighted to see that confidence levels relating to approaching employers had also increased. As a result of their involvement in the co-design and delivery of the programme, many of the ASCs stated that they had gained selfawareness and a greater understanding of their capabilities. I was delighted that two of the ASCs described that they felt empowered to pursue work related to promoting diversity and inclusion issues in the workplace. The impact of this project on me, as a practitioner and researcher, included a richer understanding of the needs and concerns of autistic students regarding employment and a conviction that participatory approaches are vital in order to ensure effective provision of careers support.



Although there was much to be pleased about, when evaluating the project with the ASCs, we could see that only about ten percent of all LJMU students who had informed the university that they are autistic had been involved. We felt that offering a variety of provision could support the preferences of those who had not engaged so far, so this year I have opted for a multi-pronged approach to extend reach.

The impact of the project and the ripple effect of bringing positive change for autistic students, and disabled students as a whole, is continuing to be seen within and even beyond the university.

In addition to tailored online workshops planned for the spring, a section of the LJMU careers website has been developed specifically for autistic students, with the content and style suggested by the ASCs. A third element of the tailored support for this year involved providing an autism awareness session for colleagues offering one-to-one careers guidance to students, which included ideas for ensuring this is as accessible as possible. I am looking forward to seeing the results of this latest iteration of the project.

As a result of their involvement in the co-design and delivery of the programme, many of the Autistic Student Consultants stated that they had gained self-awareness and a greater understanding of their capabilities

Members of staff have taken an interest in this approach of incorporating the autistic voice and are considering implementing it in their own departments. I invited several of the ASCs to join a university-wide disability employability group and this resulted in a careers event for Disability History Month (which both ASCs spoke at). I have been sharing the findings at UK and European conferences and, along with several other careers practitioners, have set up a LinkedIn group to create a community of other careers professionals seeking to support autistic individuals. One of the ASCs has even started a profit-for-purpose company, which seeks to educate employers on how to provide more inclusive environments for their workforces and has already attracted some well-known companies as clients. My experience of being involved in this project has convinced me that incorporating the voices of those we are seeking to support should be an essential element of any provision. Some key elements I have found particularly helpful include finding likeminded colleagues to support you as you embark on this – and to adopt a resilient and curious mindset. I hope that reading this account inspires others to try it too. Connect with Keren on LinkedIn @kerenconey Careers professionals who are supporting autistic individuals


peers as positive role models:


We co-wrote a proposal using careers enrolment data to justify an inclusive approach, presented it to faculty, and received £9,000 funding towards the Inclusive Careers Education Ambassadors pilot project. We used an anonymised recruitment process, with application form questions scored by department staff, and designed a live online training programme which ran in July 2021. Ambassadors planned their activities during the summer and started to deliver them in Autumn 2021, supported by our Inclusive Careers Project Officer, Naiyira Naweed.

IMPACT AND ENGAGEMENT Ambassadors have co-created and contributed to activities including CV review workshops, interview skills workshops, department-specific workshops and employer panel events. They also set up their own social media channels and produced a fantastic careers guide, with content written for students, by students.

In 2021, King’s Careers & Employability launched a pilot project centred on inclusive careers education through peer-to-peer delivery. LAURA OXLEY, Careers Consultant, alongside students and recent graduates, ARCHIT BANSAL, ASMAA DIGALE and KIRUSHNEY KALAMOHAN, and BEN BROWN, Careers Education Assistant Learning Technologist, share their experiences of working together and reflect on the success of the project. In early 2020, computer science students at King’s proposed that a 'careers representative’ role be set up. Two students designed peer-led careers workshops, which were a resounding success with more than 70 attendees turning up week after week. Consequently, they suggested the programme could be continued and expanded across the Faculty of Natural, Mathematical and Engineering Sciences (NMES).

SENSE OF COMMUNITY Our aim was to increase students’ confidence and self-efficacy in career planning by delivering inclusive peer-to-peer education activities, help them build professional networks of peers, and enhance collaboration across the faculty. We wanted to provide paid part time work for 10-11 students with an understanding of lived experience of marginalisation, such as ethnicity, disability and gender, who could act as role models for their peers and work as a team to build a sense of community.


We worked closely with the ambassador team to embed a chatbot into our virtual learning environment to answer questions about careers and employability, and to signpost students to useful resources. The team’s insight and expertise allowed us to improve the bot’s accessibility, its functionality and to expand the number of answers to questions that students really wanted to know. The primary issues we faced in delivering the project were too few paid working hours for the ambassadors (so we recommended more hours to enable them to make a more significant impact) and the need to increase the amount of administrative time allocated to it in order to fully support the ambassadors in achieving their aims. We are so proud of the contributions of each of our ambassadors. Co-designing the project was a fantastic experience and we are currently putting together a proposal to continue the project for the coming year.

"The project provided a great opportunity for students like me to become part of the careers team, help and guide other students on their career journey, and approach this project from a student’s point of view. Training included learning about the project, gaining tips on how to plan and run career events, and how to reach out to as many students as possible. We also came up with interesting and informative careerrelated event ideas suited to different fields and subjects, which we planned and executed over the semester."

Archit Bansal Inclusive Careers Education Ambassador and maths student

"The project was the first time I saw an opportunity for students’ voices to be heard and valued. The training involved learning about what inclusive careers education means, discussing what students would want from each department and how we could contribute as ambassadors. We discussed how the Careers & Employability team would support us in our role. We also practised delivering online sessions to build confidence in running our activities. I ran a workshop for careers staff from universities across London, specifically from my perspective and experiences as a student from an underrepresented background, which was an amazing opportunity for me."

Kirushney Kalamohan Inclusive Careers Education Ambassador and physics graduate Connect with Laura on LinkedIn


STAKEHOLDER BUY-IN Critical to the success of the project was securing buy-in from various stakeholder groups and their involvement in developing the tool.

enhancing employability support:

STUDENTS AS VITAL PARTNERS IN THE CAREERS SERVICE MISSION HELEN SMITH, Head of Careers at the University of Sheffield, reflects on the significant contribution of students to the development and success of a brand-new skills development portfolio and reflection tool. MARK MITCHELL, CHIEF EDUCATION PARTNERSHIP OFFICER outlines Group GTI's contribution to the project. In early 2020, having recently arrived at the University of Sheffield as Head of Careers, I developed and presented an Employability Action Plan, building on work previously launched to enhance a programme-level approach to employability in the curriculum. The plan presented 21 recommendations in sections focused on student skills and self-awareness, access to work experiences, employer and alumni interactions, optimising graduate outcomes, and the use of data to ensure consistency and enable targeted activity where needed. Key to the plan’s success was the development of an underpinning framework to provide a more consistent employability offer for students. One of the recommendations was that we source and implement a single university-wide student skills development portfolio tool. Similar tools had been in place previously, but it was a confused and uneven offer for students and we were determined to provide something that would be available to all students. At the same time as the Employability Action Plan was gaining university approval, conversations with the team at GTI suggested that our concept for a skills portfolio aligned closely with their plans for career discovery tools and resources within targetconnect. This was fortuitous timing and, having gained university support, we agreed to work together at speed to build a skills assessment tool.


Within the university a new Student Skills and Employability Group (SSEG) was established to prioritise and guide activity related to the Employability Action Plan. This group included senior academic leads from all faculties, and representatives from the library, global engagement, wellbeing, the international college, academic skills centre, and careers. Crucially, the group also included the Students' Union’s chief executive, employability lead and sabbatical officers. At its initial meeting in May 2020 the SSEG approved two key priority activities: updating the university’s graduate attributes framework to better reflect the breadth of skills and attributes required in graduate employment, and the development of the proposed skills assessment tool, with the updated attributes framework providing the underpinning structure for the tool. Both projects had to progress at pace in order to meet our ideal launch date of October 2020. Students' Union involvement and contribution proved to be key to getting this done. We had already established that our Employability Action Plan aligned with the Students' Union’s Skills for Life strategy, and student officers were very engaged in enhancing the consistency of student support focused on employability. Student representatives participated in the project sub-groups we established to advance the work on the graduate attributes framework and the skills development tool. Both projects related to students’ experiences and personal development opportunities in the taught curriculum and in all their extracurricular activities.

TRUE CONSULTATION A consultation process included a wide range of students, including Students' Union volunteers and a university student panel of around 100 students, who were asked for their opinions on the proposed framework and the structure of the skills development tool. Hundreds of current and incoming international students were consulted regarding the language proposed to define the attributes and used in the questions in the skills self-audit tool. Some students with specific learning difficulties (SpLDs) considered the language and portfolio design from an accessibility perspective. University alumni also contributed views on the suitability of the proposed framework and the language used within it. This consultation activity continued throughout the summer of 2020 alongside the technical development underway at targetconnect and ongoing work within the Careers Service to create a self-audit framework and statements with linked online learning pathways providing insights into key attributes and skills development opportunities. As functionality was being developed, all of it was being tested by staff and students to ensure we had a product ready for launch.

"From the outset the targetconnect team was excited by the opportunity to co-create the mySkills tool with the University of Sheffield. The concept aligned with our ambition to help deliver career discovery and skills articulation for students and graduates at scale. But what made this opportunity really stand out was the strength of stakeholder input that the Sheffield team had behind this project. Tying in with the Students' Union’s Skills for Life strategy ensured co-creation, buy-in and engagement, all of which helped our team massively as we embedded mySkills in targetconnect. The response to mySkills has been universally positive across the targetconnect community. We are in no doubt that student co-creation was central to this and look forward to broadening the skills framework in targetconnect and extending it across our platform." Mark Mitchell Chief Education Partnership Officer, Group GTI

UNIVERSITY-WIDE REACH Thanks to the enthusiasm and combined effort of students, of university and Students’ Union colleagues, and our partners at GTI, we successfully launched on time for the start of the 2020/21 academic year. Students voted on the name for the tool, opting for ‘mySkills’. Every student at the university now has access to mySkills and can start to build their own unique portfolio of development experiences and reflections. Feedback from students using the tool contributes to the ongoing development of its functionality and content. Following pilot activity in 2020/21 to adopt the use of mySkills in core academic modules as a ‘must do’ rather than a ‘could do’, the university has confirmed as part of its education strategy that mySkills will be incorporated into every first-year undergraduate programme to enhance student selfawareness, reflection and future employability. The initial contribution of students, and their ongoing support for mySkills, has been pivotal to the development, launch and level of strategic buy-in to project. The tool is now viewed as a key element of the employability support provided to our students. They have helped to design and develop every aspect of it, for the benefit of their peers.


closing the digital skills gap


KATE MURRAY, Project Lead for the Digital Accelerator Programme at the University of Liverpool, which is funded by the Office for Students, outlines how the Careers and Employability team are working with students as partners to enhance overall learning and professional development. Working with students as partners is at the heart of careers provision at the University of Liverpool. With that in mind, in December 2018 we responded to the Office for Students Support for Local Graduates Challenge Competition and created the Digital Accelerator Programme. The programme would take two cohorts of 20 commuter students through an internship investigating the digital skills gap in the Liverpool City Region, and then train them to deliver digital skills sessions to their peers, on campus, in a new Digital Coach role.

PEER TO PEER PHILOSOPHY From the outset, we focussed on the type of student partnership we wanted to create, and how the outcomes would complement our existing peer-to-peer philosophy. Any student partnership should result in students feeling a stronger sense of belonging and identity to both the university itself and the city it resides in. Belonging increases confidence, which in turn increases the likelihood of academic and future success. Ultimately, we hoped the programme would lead to better graduate outcomes for this cohort. We developed two stages to the programme. Firstly, we focussed on developing the partnership by creating a community focussed on professional practice and digital skills enhancement. Once in place, partnership delivery was established to support digital skill pedagogy, developing the skills of not just our commuter students but the wider student cohort.


Our driver has always been to provide a creative and fresh insight into the many ways we can support our students DISRUPTING BOUNDARIES For this approach to succeed, it was integral to establish an environment for students that was both comfortable and informative. We communicated regularly with the Digital Coaches, sharing knowledge and facilitating learning via introductory events to enable them to develop friendships and a network, and to provide a platform whereby they could liaise with careers and employability professionals. We sought to disrupt the ‘boundaries between staff and student identities and roles’ and challenge ‘traditional hierarchical relationships’ (Chambers and Nagle, 2013) to enable transformational learning to take place naturally. Once this environment was established, the Digital Coaches undertook a 12-week training programme with Agent Academy where they carried out their investigative task, met with employers at the forefront of digital in the Liverpool City region, and devised their digital skills sessions. The result led to a new suite of sessions that encompass a wide digital skillset for our students.

"The Digital Accelerator Programme has given me the opportunity to connect myself more with university life and enhance my student experience. It is amazing to be part of a community of people who inspire me to continue working hard and accomplish my goals." Lucky Ali, Digital Coach "The scheme has built a strong relationship and association between the university and myself, one that I will reflect upon fondly." Michael Watson, Digital Coach

Any student partnership should result in students feeling a stronger sense of belonging and identity

SENSE OF BELONGING To instil a sense of belonging and community we located a space at Liverpool Science Park for the Digital Coaches to work, which is near our university campus. Feedback demonstrates that this has been a convenient workspace and a suitable place to meet with other Digital Coaches to develop ideas. Pre- and post-programme survey analysis has revealed significant increases in students reporting that they have made meaningful connections during their time at university and their sense of belonging to a community of students (77% increase), as well as their connection to the city community (54% increase).

"It has developed my relationships with people. This has helped drive my career options for the future as I am learning more about the industry whilst developing professional skills." Yenny Weng Mei, Digital Coach

SKILLS ENHANCEMENT The programme has encouraged our Digital Coaches to flourish. In terms of the development of their professional practice, Digital Coaches have reported an increase in diplomacy skills, increased confidence in approaching employers about job opportunities, and that the programme has been something that will enable them to gain a graduate position upon completion of their studies. All the Digital Coaches reported that they had gained confidence in liaising with university staff, whilst 87% would be happy to liaise with external organisations.

Skills enhancement for the students participating in the sessions delivered is another major achievement of the programme, with participants reporting a 100% success rate in terms of the content of the sessions being relevant to their digital skills development. We continually track the career progression of our first cohort, who have gone on to work in graduate roles at the University of Liverpool, The Very Group, Department for Transport, Percipient and the UK Home Office. The LinkedIn profile information for this group, which we have compared with data collected on the entire home and first-degree 2017-18 graduating cohort, reveals that 100% are in highly skilled employment compared to 75% for the latter group. Their network size is also significant at 212, compared to 94 for the latter group.

EXCEEDING TARGETS Our driver has always been to provide a creative and fresh insight into the many ways we can support our students. We exceeded our engagement target of 1,000 students, having delivered to 1,172 participants in total, although there are still two months of delivery remaining. Structuring the Digital Accelerator Programme in the way we did has resulted in major successes, leading to meaningful and unexpected outcomes throughout the duration of the programme. Not only are the Digital Coaches building effective partnerships within the framework of the programme, they are also being called upon by fellow careers and employability staff to support with other initiatives that have a digital and innovative approach to recruitment. Their contribution is informing future work in this area and supports a recommendation to permanently embed projects of this nature into the make-up of the wider university. Connect with Kate on LinkedIn

Ali, Digital Coach, 2021

Watson, Digital Coach, 2021



We wanted students to have the freedom to undertake project work that could benefit them

adopting student-led delivery



Our desire for true collaboration with students was evident from the outset when it came to choosing a title to represent the role. Rather than us choose one and assume it was best, I used a LinkedIn poll to gather students’ perceptions and confirm Careers Assistant as the preferred option. We requested students apply for the role by expressing an interest using an online form and encouraged them to approach the Careers Service for support. Here we could ensure they knew to engage with the job description, use key words and to write succinctly - all of which they need to do when applying for graduate jobs.

CARLY EMSLEY-JONES, Careers Consultant at Cardiff Metropolitan University, shares how the Covid-19 pandemic presented an opportunity to position students at the forefront of shaping careers service delivery. Here, she outlines the positive impact of the creation of Careers Assistant roles on both students and the careers service. We launched our Careers Assistant role in 2020 following the outbreak of Covid-19, which made accessing work experience opportunities challenging for our students. As our service recognises the value of work experience, we created the role to enable students to enhance their employability skills whilst developing those of their peers.

BRIDGING THE GAP In the planning stages we considered everything from the role’s purpose, key responsibilities, the process of recruiting the students and how we would support them. We wanted this role to bridge the gap between students and the Careers Service and to provide an opportunity for us to collaborate, enhance the visibility of our service and listen to the student voice. Even though some responsibilities were outlined on the job description, we didn’t want this to be too prescriptive; we wanted students to have the freedom to undertake project work that could benefit them.


Considering the post was advertised in July (usually one of our quieter months) via email and social media, we were pleasantly surprised to receive more than 20 applications. For those who were unsuccessful, we provided personal feedback and the opportunity to have a one-to-one appointment to discuss how we can support them with their next steps. Following training, which included meeting the team, we signed-up five students to tackle the new academic year with us.

SHAPING SUPPORT Careers Assistants consulted with their peers to gauge how we could shape our support and, as a result, they delivered a series of student-led webinars. Topics included ‘LinkedIn Masterclass – A Student Perspective’ and ‘Masters Students – Standing out from the Graduate Crowd’. More than 60 students attended the webinars, with 87% stating that they enjoyed the webinars being student-led. Each of our Careers Assistants took over our Twitter account for a day, sharing meaningful content and signposting followers to our resources. Not only did we increase engagement by gaining multiple new followers, but we went from 17.1k tweet impressions to an impressive 47.6k impressions following the takeovers. Other examples of the work students have done, include supporting the wider team, such as GO Wales, creating blogs and helping promote our events – the list is endless!

Feedback from students stated that they enjoyed the webinars being student-led

OPPORTUNITIES FOR PROGRESSION The Careers Assistant roles are still very much in their infancy, but there have already been developments. This includes the creation of a Lead Careers Assistant role with responsibility for managing the team of Careers Assistants, including offering support and project management across the university. This role provides students with the opportunity to progress and enhance other skills, such as negotiation, leadership and organisation. We currently have one Careers Assistant for each academic school, but the goal is to expand this to a small team of students to further enhance the impact.

WIDER CONTRIBUTIONS Whilst our Careers Assistants have been working with us to develop our employability provision, we are equally keen for them to make wider contributions. An example of this is when two Careers Assistants took part in a Careers2032 student roundtable organised by AGCAS, Wonkhe, the ISE and Handshake. Here, they gained an insight into how these discussions inform industry research and were able to network with other students, employers and careers professionals, thus enhancing their own professional profile. Having made a business case demonstrating their impact to develop the roles from voluntary to paid positions, the Careers Assistants are now an integral part of our Careers Service. Their contributions and insights are truly invaluable. Co-creating our careers and employability provision with students enables us to provide a service that is contemporary and responds to student needs, in turn enhancing both their employability skills and the student experience.

"When I started my university journey, I never thought I would be able to say I had pitched, organised, and hosted a series of employability webinars during lockdown. I never thought I’d be able to say I had presented a talk about LinkedIn to over 130 fellow students! Being a Careers Assistant, and now a Lead Careers Assistant, has really shaped my university experience. I can say hand on heart this role holds some of my fondest memories from this period of my life." Lead Careers Assistant Connect with Carly on LinkedIn @CarlyEmsley


what do students think?

USING YOUR STUDENTS AS CO-CREATORS BECKA COLLEY-FOSTER, Interim Head of Careers at Edge Hill University, outlines how longstanding partnership work with students has been invaluable in helping to shape careers service delivery, drive engagement with their peers, and improve graduate outcomes.

Smaller universities, like Edge Hill, have always employed students to support the work of the careers service. Our own journey with student peer influence began in the mid-1990s. To date, their roles have covered all facets of service delivery, including: Reception and welcoming duties: being the face of Careers for students approaching the service. Office experience: answering the phone and emails, providing administrative support, liaising with other university departments and liaising externally with employers. Supporting our employability events: staffing employer fairs, co-ordinating our skills workshops, and designing promotional materials. Marketing and social media: running our Twitter account, designing digital display screen content, writing copy, and designing layout for our careers e-newsletters. Research, evaluation and feedback: leading peer focus groups to obtain feedback on our services, conducting research into what our students want from Careers, and identifying patterns of engagement.


SYMBIOTIC RELATIONSHIP Working with students as employees helps us to foster an authentic environment that captures the student voice. Students are able to give insight and feedback into what might work for them and their peers, which in turn enhances our delivery of careers and employability support and improves the student experience. This has developed over the years into a symbiotic relationship where we have been able to identify relevant enhancement activities and give students experience in a realworld setting, supporting them to go on and secure graduatelevel roles once their studies have finished. We then work in partnership to utilise their feedback, ideas, and creativity to shape our services further. In the beginning, we could not operate as an effective service without the contribution of our paid student staff. Now, we support students’ personal and professional development as part of their enrichment opportunities. They contribute to our strategic planning and can see their ideas implemented in our services. This empowers them to be active agents for change and helps us to ensure our services meet the needs of a 21st century student community. Ultimately, we are more agile, inclusive, and effective as a result of our partnerships with students.



Student-led research has fed directly into our marketing activities. Working with the Business School, we created two student researcher placements to drill down into how students were engaging with our services, what they liked and what they didn’t, and to gather feedback from their peers on how to increase our visibility and reach with underrepresented groups. The student researchers were given ownership of the project and chose to create online surveys, which were promoted through various student-led and university channels. From these results, they created a report and delivered a presentation on their findings. Many valuable ideas were generated, such as footprint floor decals leading students to our services, a new highly visible ‘Careers Corner’ (which is currently being approved by our VC to give Careers a student-facing home in a new student building), and regular weekly drop-ins based in departments to give Careers a human face within degree programmes. The students developed valuable research skills, got to practise and implement them to a given brief, and can see that the work they completed is driving real change in the delivery of our services.

We actively work with a team of student ambassadors to raise our profile and drive engagement with underrepresented groups, supporting the university’s Access and Participation Plan (APP). Students are recruited each year to be part of our Student Advisory Panels, which help to inform the design and delivery of a wide range of university services, including Careers. The panel is actively promoted to a cross section of students with the aim to extend reach, break down barriers, and enhance the impact of careers service initiatives. In turn, student panel members share their feedback and reflections on various aspects of their university experience.

VLOGGING Hearing peers give insights into different types of career enhancement activities (such as summer placements, or the transition to graduatelevel roles) helps students develop the confidence to apply for similar roles in the future and inspires them to succeed. Our student vloggers kept regular weekly vlogs during placement activities, giving valuable insights into sandwich placements, acting as ambassadors for the university and engaging alumni. While we have faced a few challenges creating vlogs, editing content, training vloggers in different operating systems and using smart technologies, a positive outcome from this project is that students are developing their digital skills ahead of entering the graduate jobs market. We are also building our expertise in a digital world.

Our volunteering ambassadors contribute to a wide range of volunteering opportunities from the NSPCC to the Lancashire Volunteer Partnership. Even during Covid19, our students have found ways to continue to contribute, directly influencing and fostering a positive environment in local organisations. When the Catalyst building opened in 2018, our students took the lead, speaking to HRH Princess Anne about their experiences volunteering and hopes for their futures. @BeckaC_Foster Connect with Becka on LinkedIn EHU Careers YouTube


There is further work to be done to reach students earlier

Careers 2032:


CLARE ADAMS, Handshake’s Head of Education Strategy UK, reflects on the findings of a research project supported by AGCAS, ISE and Wonkhe. Careers2032 considers what careers services will look like ten years from now, how students will connect with employers, and what information, advice and guidance will help them to succeed.

Although, as always, this isn’t a homogenous group – and, perhaps understandably, third year students tend to be slightly more likely to prioritise their salary (22% vs 18%) than their first and second year counterparts. And, while there are alway goal-oriented students who are sure about their future, uncertainty is still a factor. Not knowing what field to go into is the biggest obstacle to success for around a quarter (27%) of the students we spoke to, which has undoubtedly been exacerbated by Covid-19, causing employment uncertainty and restricting work experience opportunities. Notably, career confidence diminishes throughout the time students are in education, with 33% saying they feel very confident about their career prospects during the first year of their course, dropping to 31% in year two, and to 17% in year three. All this indicates that there is further work to be done in the decade to come by employers and careers professionals, to reach students earlier – perhaps even before they embark on their university journey – to explore their skills and options for a future career. But while there are challenges in the years ahead in the wake of the pandemic, it is heartening that students are still consistently more likely to say they feel more optimistic than pessimistic about their future (73% vs 10%).

CAREERS PROFESSIONALS Towards the end of 2021, we spent two months travelling up and down the country, talking to careers professionals, students and employers involved in graduate recruitment to explore present and future opportunities and discuss how we can all work together to address challenges, ultimately to better serve students and graduates. In total, we hosted fifteen roundtable discussions across the UK, visiting Bristol, Manchester, Birmingham, Edinburgh and London. Our goal was to create an open forum for the exchange of ideas at each stop along the way. Supporting this effort, AGCAS and the ISE also issued surveys amongst its membership in order to gather quantitative data and to help build a picture of what the next decade holds.

A desire for more collaboration, both within and outside the institution Perhaps the biggest challenge for careers professionals over the next decade is the need to demonstrate impact within the wider university – 95% of respondents felt this would be a key battle. And, as well as working closely with wider university stakeholders to demonstrate value, careers professionals cited the need to continue their work outside of the university gates, collaborating closely with employers and playing an active role in the local community.

Priorities and worries are changing

This theme of working together was pervasive throughout our quantitative research and roundtable discussions, as careers professionals from universities up and down the country cited collaboration as a critical way to boost engagement and improve outcomes.

Our research demonstrates that, overwhelmingly, Gen Z’s single top priority for a career is finding the work interesting (40%), well ahead of salary concerns in second place (18%). There are insights here for educators and employers alike in how to engage with those about to embark on a career, with the goal of harnessing and adapting that enthusiasm and desire for fulfilment.

Indeed, around three quarters of careers professionals see the need for employers to play more of a role in curriculum development, and a similar number would be keen to assist businesses with student recruitment strategies and EDI initiatives – demonstrating that there are real opportunities to work together more closely in the decade ahead.





Keeping hold of graduates is likely to become more of a challenge

A tech-fuelled future

When looking ahead, employers were not only concerned about hiring talented graduate recruits, but by the issue of staff retention and loyalty. Indeed, employers of all sizes feel that retaining graduates will be the biggest challenge of the coming decade, with 71% concerned by this. Our employer roundtable discussions suggested that a focus on training, development and nurturing the idea of lifelong learning would be important for businesses to attract and retain a new generation. What’s more, as graduates increasingly choose to work for employers who are making a meaningful contribution to society, robust and demonstrable Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes will continue to be an important part of fostering loyalty amongst employees. It will be important though – say employers and students alike – not to simply pay ‘lip service’ to CSR, but to embed social responsibility into every aspect of a business.

Ultimately, the research has provided us with useful insights into what the next ten years might bring. Overall, there is an optimistic picture for the future, where collaboration between employers, universities and students will improve graduate employment prospects and fuel the workforce with skilled, adaptable and motivated employees. And this future is likely to be tech-powered, as employers, careers professionals and students alike harness a plethora of new tools to facilitate meaningful, long term, connections. Of course, the next decade will not be without its challenges. But as much as navigating out of the pandemic will require all parties to be more adaptable than ever and step up for those who had their studies or work experience disrupted, it also presents a unique opportunity to imagine a future where the student and graduate employment market – careers support, skills development and the process of making connections – will be more accessible and equitable than ever before.

Download Careers2032


career stage framework:

MEETING STUDENTS WHERE THEY ARE IN THEIR EMPLOYABILITY JOURNEY Careers and employability education within higher education is often predicated on the idea that the student cohort is at the beginning of their career journey; they are Career Starters (CS). However, there is evidence that many distance learning students are better described as Career Developers (CD), or Career Changers (CC). LAURA BRAMMAR and LIZ WILKINSON, Senior Careers Consultants at the University of London Careers Service, outline a Career Stage Framework they have developed to tailor the design, delivery and evaluation of careers and employability provision for distance learning students. Many higher education careers and employability services are geared towards students with limited amounts of work experience. In reality, many distance learning, part time and postgraduate students already have extensive experience in the workplace. This disconnect between where we presume our students to be on their employability journey and where they actually are, can prevent us from providing career development opportunities for all students.

DISTINCT GROUPS The 45,000 University of London distance-learning students are not only based across the world in 180 different countries, but also represent a diverse range of workplace experience. Extensive work with this cohort in a global, virtual classroom has led the development of the Career Stage Framework, which segments the students into three distinct groups, each at different stages of their career journey: Career Starters (CS) – limited work experience, using their studies to launch their career Career Developers (CD) – extensive work experience, using their studies to enhance their career Career Changers (CC) – substantial work experience, using their studies to pivot their career All three career stages are strongly represented in our student cohort. When 2,236 webinar registrants were surveyed in Autumn 2021 they reported as 45% CS, 29% CD and 26% CC. Student voice qualitative data reinforces the message that many students are choosing their mode and subject of study to progress their continued career development or to enable them to make a career change. Many join our programmes with their own substantive experience in the workforce, and with personal constructs and perspectives shaped by that experience; they have already been on a careers education journey.

The framework segments students into three distinct groups, each at different stages of their career journey PAGE 44



Making every minute of careers education count

Some points to ponder

Our Career Developers and Career Changers often carry the study/full time work/family care load. Awareness of this time scarcity drives us to make our careers education as time efficient as possible; snappy content, bite-sized chunks of micro-modular content, time-efficient assessment. This approach also benefits Careers Starters, who may have less visible time pressures arising from disability or socioeconomic disadvantage.

Targeting and labelling by careers stage We now offer online careers education delivery with specific content, such as Career Starters: How do you bridge the zero experience gap?, Career Developers: How do you know you’re ready for promotion? and Career Changers: How can you navigate career change in the 2020s? Such recognition, targeting and encouragement has been positively received by students, especially by the Career Changers, who may feel between work identities and rather isolated.

Facilitating cross-framework student peer learning and knowledge transfer Our students now readily self-identify as one of the three groups. This enables us to orchestrate opportunities for enhanced peerto-peer support and learning. In our interactive career drop-in sessions we often have Career Starters gaining valuable firsthand insights from Career Developers or Career Changers already working in their intended sector.

Using the framework as a lens to look at other student data We are able to cross reference framework data with other evaluation metrics and career readiness. Framework data also emphasises the various types of diversity that our global student cohort represent; different careers stage, different locations and different academic programmes, which also informs our practice.

How might you collect careers stage data? Are there particular programmes (mode/subject/level) where you are most likely to find this type of diversity? Ask your students how they define their careers stage and what it means to them? Do your career changers and ‘second chancers feel undervalued and lack confidence? Ask students what message your careers and employability service sends to those who already have some work experience in either their preferred sector or other industries? How can you encourage students to bring their work experience and insider knowledge into the room and create informal careers discussion spaces for cross-career stage peer learning? How might you harness the insights of current students to provide industry intelligence, perhaps combined with alumni panels? How time-consuming is it to engage with your careers education? Could you speed it up?

Own context Whilst you may not work with distance learning students, we are hopeful that you will still be able to translate the framework to your own contexts and find this a useful lens to consider inclusivity and student-centred learning. Our professional practice has been enriched by taking this approach to explore and respond to our students’ existing work experience and career stages. By providing a framework to recognise, utilise and celebrate the various stages of career development, we are providing those cohorts with an opportunity to reflect on the lifelong learning that their experience thus far in the workplace has given them. And our students have responded by welcoming this sense-making careers narrative and are bringing more of themselves to the room, which has resulted in some fabulous co-created careers learning Connect with Laura on LinkedIn Connect withConnect Liz on LinkedIn with Liz on LinkedIn


We appreciate that we have not quite got everything right up to now, but we will continue to develop our platform and events to suit both you and your students.

virtual engagement and employer events:


ANDREW BARGERY, Talent Engagement Senior Manager, reflects on one of the hottest topics of the past two years and outlines how PwC have evolved their approach to graduate recruitment. It is always very difficult to predict exactly what will happen next, but at PwC we have always been at the forefront of change and eager to explore new ways of working. During my 18 years at the firm so much has changed and evolved. When I joined back in 2004, we had recently launched our first Flying Start degree programme at the University of Newcastle. We now have ten Flying Start programmes across Accountancy, Technology and Business Management. This year, we launched a bursary scheme for the Accountancy programme, with eligible students receiving £10,000 over the course of their four-year degree. Back then, we used very traditional paper and pencil psychometric tests, and the number of school and college-leaver and undergraduate programmes was far more limited than the programmes we offer today. We also used UCAS points (and were fairly rigid with the requirements) as part of the criteria required for undergraduate work experience and graduate roles. I could go on, but you can hopefully see that we have been extremely progressive over the last few years in terms of what we offer and how we approach recruitment. For those of you who have not yet seen or heard of our Virtual Park, this is the platform we are now using to host all of our events. Whilst we are aware of the clear challenges that university careers services and students are faced with when employers are running their own virtual events, we also see the opportunities that this approach offers as the next step in the evolution of how we work with students.


We have recently run our web-based augmented reality Scavenger Hunt campaign for spring, offering some great prizes for your students, including an electric mini as the main prize. This campaign ran at over 90 UK universities and is another example of how the use of technology has helped us to improve our reach in a sustainable way, whilst offering your students fun and interesting ways of engaging with PwC. We thought carefully about our choice of technology and platform; our Virtual Park offers so much more than the alternatives that are out there. Across our programme of events, we include presentations, panel sessions, one-to-one drop-ins, networking and skills workshops. The versatility of the technology allows students to engage with us in different ways, many of them replicating the types of events that we ran in person. One of the key benefits for us (and for you too) is that the use of a platform like Virtual Park removes some of the barriers that we once faced. We are no longer restricted to how many chairs we can fit in a PwC conference room or a meeting space on campus and, more importantly, it allows us to engage with students from every UK university. One of the biggest challenges of pre-virtual engagement was trying to accommodate all of the event requests and opportunities that each university offered to employers. We simply didn’t have the time or resources to visit every single UK university – the team spent huge amounts of time travelling up and down the country, visiting around 75 universities each year. Since the introduction of the Virtual Park we have reached students from over 150 UK universities, as well as students studying at institutions outside of the UK. We very much hope that this will have a positive impact on the diversity of our future hires. It has not been straightforward – we are aware that not all students have the same access to tech, we know that wifi isn’t always 100% reliable, and we have all had a fair bit of virtual fatigue – but when I reflect back to the ‘old days’ of in-person events, there were plenty of other challenges that we used to contend with. Did the tech always work in venues that we used? Were students always willing to make the journey to a PwC office or to the building that we were using on their campus? Could we ensure a fair and consistent approach across every single UK university? We are committed to making this work, but we know we can’t do it without your support, and we continue to want to work closely with you. Yes, our approach is different but our ongoing relationship with you is critical as we try to ensure we fill all of our opportunities for the year ahead (and beyond). To finish on another positive note, the number of undergraduate and graduate vacancies for our 2022 intake is at the highest level for the last decade, which is great news for graduate outcomes. PWC Talent Network


DR JULIA YATES, Senior Lecturer in Organisational Psychology at City, University of London, shares shares her latest digest of careers-related research.



Veres, A. (2021). The Effects of an Online Career Intervention on University Students’ Levels of Career Adaptability. International Journal of Psychological and Behavioral Sciences, 15(9), 880-887.

Boyle, K.A. (2021). Career identities and Millennials’ response to the graduate transition to work: lessons learned, Journal of Education and Work, DOI: 10.1080/13639080.2021.2009782

This study reported the findings of an online career development intervention to enhance university students’ career adaptability. The study was based on the Career Adapt-Abilities model (Savickas & Porfeli, 2012), which suggests that students need to develop four competencies, the four Cs, to allow them to make good career choices and to cope with the ever-changing career landscape: concern, control, curiosity and confidence.

Kathryn Boyle, from Glasgow Caledonian University, interviewed 36 Millennials (born between 1980 and 2000) exploring how they experienced the transition from university to work, and identified a number of interesting themes. First, and this will probably come as no great surprise, she found that the young people only started really thinking about their career identities after they had actually started work. She then identified four different aspects of identity development, finding that once they had started their new jobs the graduates: restrained their ideal self (changing their aspirations to fit their sense of realistic possibilities) reasserted their ideal self (reflecting on how unrealistic their previous ideas were) revised their ideal self (drawing on what they learned about themselves in their first graduate jobs to change their aspirations) re-explored possible selves (acknowledging the multiple different futures that could be open to them).

The students in this study completed an online module, which included some personality and career interest inventories, goal setting and values exercises, and visualisations. It was all done in the students’ own time, but online feedback was given by a career counsellor. The module took 30 minutes a week and lasted for four weeks. Data were collected before and after the module and followed up six months after the intervention, and the findings were compared to a control group. The author found that students in the intervention group had significantly increased their levels of career adaptability on all four of the Cs, both immediately after the sessions and six months down the line. There is plenty of evidence that suggests that one-to-one work is the most effective kind of career intervention, but it’s great to see that online, scalable sessions can make a big difference.


Trying to get a head start on some of this identity work before students leave university could be really helpful and I thought you might find my blog post on Possible Selves useful.



Cîrtiţă-Buzoianu, C., Cojocariu, V. M., & Mareş, G. (2021). Motivational Essay-A Useful Tool in Career Choice? Postmodern Openings, 12(4), 42-61. This study was based on secondary school pupils, but could have some useful lessons for those working with older clients making choices about their first career paths. The idea of a motivational essay is grounded in the postmodern ideals of career development, which assume that the idea of ‘career’ is highly individual, and that each of us could work out what we want from a career and how it will fit into our lives and our identities. The motivational essay is intended as an awareness raising exercise, to develop clients’ understanding of their own expectations, motivations and hopes for the future. Students were given four prompts for their writing, which might work as they are, or could be adapted to suit a particular cohort: i) Who am I? ii) Why have I chosen this particular programme of study? iii) What are my expectations at the end of university studies? iv) What do I expect from work life? The authors report that their participants found the first question difficult – suggesting that it was a bit too abstract for their existing levels of self-awareness – but that the students found the other three questions easier to answer and that they generated some valuable insights, helping specifically with students’ self-analysis, self-reflection and awareness of their own motivation. Their conclusion is that a motivational essay could make a useful contribution to a career development programme.

04 WORKING CLASS TRANSITIONS Bathmaker, A. M. (2021). Constructing a graduate career future: Working with Bourdieu to understand transitions from university to employment for students from working‐class backgrounds in England. European Journal of Education, 56(1), 78-92. Graduate careers in the 21st century are complex and the labour market requires some creative determination to navigate effectively. In this paper, the author draws on a number of models of ‘capital’, to identify the combination of resources (human, cultural, social, economic, identity and psychological) that allow individuals to develop a strong possible career self and make successful transitions to the graduate labour market. She describes the combination of capitals as having ‘magic power’, which can propel certain people towards success but highlights that these capitals are not equally available to all. Bathmaker’s article describes a longitudinal case study of two working class students, following them from their first year at university and for their first four years in work, and offers a very interesting analysis of their choices. Both women started with high aspirations for their own careers, but abandoned these because of a lack of economic and social capital in favour of more accessible but less prestigious goals. A key motivation for both was to find positions where they felt they fitted in and belonged, not considering the idea that they should or could adapt themselves. The importance of champions also came through in their narratives – they relied on university tutors or employers who went out of their way to open doors for them. The paper ends with a call to universities to provide targeted and concerted assistance for students from working class backgrounds, offered during and after university.

If you would like further details about any of the research featured in this round-up, please email



SARAH BROOKES, Student Services Marketing and Operations Director, sets out Jisc’s support for careers services in 2022. Our ability to effectively support young people early on in their careers is based on the strong bond and trust we have built with careers service colleagues over decades. That’s why I’m so pleased that 2022 will see a major focus to further embed careers services into the heart of our offering. This isn’t just about Student Services; we have been working hard to ensure that your interests as Jisc members are represented throughout the organisation. We have been asking careers service heads what they need to inform the development of new and existing products and services, such as courses and events. Our research, analytics and thought leadership will be extended to cover broader themes that align with careers service interests from higher education to early careers. Investment in Luminate will make it much more than a graduate labour market hub with richer data and information from a wider pool of research. If you haven’t yet accessed this resource, it’s a good time to get acquainted with the latest edition of What do graduates do?, produced in partnership with AGCAS, and our predictions for the coming year.

DISCOVER GRADUATE OUTCOMES We have recently launched an interactive dashboard suite codesigned with graduate careers professionals to help universities analyse the outcomes of their graduates. Insights from these dashboards will help support strategic planning and reporting. Careers advisers will be able to benchmark performance with sector peers regionally, nationally and by provider groups as well as compare 2017/18 and 2018/19 data. The dashboard is delivered via Heidi Plus. To access, contact your organisation’s Heidi Plus lead contact, call 0333 015 1170 or email


It's a good time to get acquainted with the latest edition of What do graduates do?

GIVE A GRAD A BREAK Our Early Careers Survey 2021 showed the detrimental impact the pandemic has had on the availability of work experience, with many young people unable to strengthen their job applications with the experiences they would usually rely on to stand out. The longer-term effect of this is now being felt in the labour market. There is a reduction in job searches and applications and an increase in candidate withdrawals, despite a largely buoyant labour market. Students and graduates are citing lack of confidence in their experience and skills as the single biggest reason for not applying or following up interest from employers. Employers with vacancies to fill are expressing frustration with the lack of quality candidates, application numbers and increased withdrawals or offer rejections. We have been encouraging them to reflect on what they need and to be realistic in terms of expectation. Our message to young people has been about reflecting on the last couple of years. While work experience and part time jobs may have been unattainable, there are other ways that their skills will have developed, such as through the development of new interests and pursuits or online learning. Employers value the ability to work in a hybrid environment and communicate online as well as the emotional capital many students have developed during these challenging times, such as resilience, adaptability, flexibility and self-reliance.

Our Early Careers Survey 2022 is underway and we look forward to sharing the findings in the spring. We are also surveying students later in the year to better understand emerging trends, such as the impact of environmental concerns and virtual learning on early careers.

COMBATTING DEGREE FRAUD For more than a decade our degree verification service, Hedd, has played a leading role in the international effort to combat degree fraud. We are among more than 100 signatories of the Groningen Declaration Network (GDN), a global non-profit and voluntary network of those interested in digital student data portability. The GDN conference recently brought together like-minded and influential people with the same aspiration of forming a global joined-up system that enables student mobility through data portability and digitisation.

So, what does this have to do with careers services? Qualification verification is a crucial link in the employability value chain. A graduate’s hard-earned degree and attendant employability preparation mean nothing if employers don’t have processes to stop candidates with misrepresented or fake qualifications from entering their organisations. Graduates should expect that their qualifications will be verified. We are always ready to share what we know with careers services, who have the opportunity to influence both students and employers about best practice in this important but often overlooked area of activity. We have just launched a survey to understand more about qualification verification in business and look forward to sharing these findings in the coming weeks.

Prospects Luminate Prospects Hedd



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JULY 2022


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