Wednesday December 28, 2016
As an educator based within the Careers Service at the University of Brighton, every year, I support hundreds of students to develop their employability skills in preparation for the world beyond graduation. One of my tasks is to get those students thinking about the skills and behaviours they have developed during – and alongside – their studies. Why? Because, increasingly, employers are telling us they place as much value on students’ employability skills as they do on their academic qualifications. And in some cases, they value those skills even more than the actual degree. This isn’t purely anecdotal evidence either; employability researchers such as Yorke (2006), Nilsson (2010), and Finch et al. (2013) – among others – have all found that employers are now looking at students in a more holistic fashion. Not only are they looking at what students have to offer in terms of their degree subject, but also at the employability skills and work experience they have gained during their time at university. So, my message to my students is always the same: Do as much as you can outside the curriculum – whether that be part-time work, volunteering, developing a student-led society, running a club night, or starting a business. The benefits of doing any of these things are endless, but most importantly, students are then equipped with impressive work experience when they first enter the labour market.
‘But what’s all this got to do with a big, fat cheque?’, I hear you ask! Well, a few months ago a fantastic opportunity came up to enter the Brighton Digital Award 2016 – a competition, sponsored by Santander Universities. The aim of the competition was to find and reward the best ideas for improving the experience of students. In response to this, I decided to enter my skills audit, which helps students identify, capture, and evaluate the employability skills and experience they have gained whilst being a student. The skills audit has been tried and tested by hundreds of students, albeit in paper-form, and I found the competition to be the perfect catalyst to digitalise my learning tool. After producing a video pitch, and gathering numerous votes of support from students, graduates, and lecturers, I went on to win the competition, receiving a financial reward, and access to a development fund, to create a digital, web-based version of my learning tool. So, thanks to the support of Santander Universities, and the University of Brighton, from January 2017, students and graduates – from anywhere in the UK – will be able to use SKILLS ON TAP UK to develop their skills, and find jobs!
Photo copyright of Rob Englebright 2016; featuring (from left to right) Katie Piatt (University of Brighton), Clare Griffiths (University of Brighton), and Holly Price (Santander).