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The Careers department has introduced an ambitious long-term action plan called the ‘Careers 2020’. Its goal is to improve students employability profiles. It will ensure that the University achieves highest positions at both national and global rankings.
Lent term is significant for students in terms of their future prospects, it is the right time to start thinking about the summer as many internship and summer job application deadlines are drawing near. Career Consultant David Evans summarised the importance of internships: “Internships are crucial. Students who have been able to secure an internship can find themselves in a much stronger position when applying for graduates schemes,” he continued. “An internship lets the student find out a lot more about the company and let the employer see first-hand what the student could bring to them as a future employee.”
He explained the concept further: “By employing them, the company spends vast amounts of money on their training. They want to be sure that the person doesn’t quit shortly afterwards. People who have already worked for that company during the summer know what it is like, and they are more likely to stay.”
The AGR Winter Surveys revealed that in 2012, 30% of graduate recruiters could not fill their vacancies, because they simply couldn’t find good enough candidates. The Careers 2020’s goal is to make sure that the Lancaster students will be able to meet the employers’ criteria.
Mark Diggle, the Head of the Careers department, introduced their new focus: “The people who are not recognising the importance of developing their employability skills are those we need to address the most.”
He said that in the future he would like to see the students being inquired about their vision for the future right at the Registration. Thus the Careers could identify how best to support their needs. Finding out to what degree the students know what they want would allow careers to better target their support.
Apart from the more typical students, the Careers also want to pay closer attention to those who are outside of the standard “undergraduate” category, such as part-timers and students abroad. Evans said that all the Lancaster students must have equal opportunities.
“We need to think carefully about the digital environment,” added Diggle. “It is an important channel to provide advice for people who are not physically on campus.”
The Careers website had a dramatic remake recently, so that now it matches the format of the other university sites. Diggle called the old website “a professional embarrassment”.
He pointed out that universities (and employers) look at other universities’ websites and compare them. The new version is much “more straight-forward and efficient”. Apart from the sloppy design, the old website’s main problem was that there were too many bits added to it over the years. The new version, designed in two-months’ time by Roundhouse, greatly improves the Career Centre’s identity and service.
One of the planned additional features of the new website is the ‘Knowledge Bank’, a portal through which students can acquire subject and sector specific careers information and will provide insight into the graduate recruitment of different companies. The database will be comprised of intelligence based on interviews with major employers, and on the students’ experience with those employers. The Knowledge Bank will be a private domain, only accessible for Lancaster students.
In the future, the website should also include online careers education tools, or potentially an online Careers and Employability module. It could be either an optional module, on an integral assessed part of a course.
The Careers future goals and improvements go well beyond the virtual site. One of the major Careers plans for next year is an on-campus Recruitment Centre, which will offer fair access to the opportunities both on and off campus. This service, co-located with the careers, will support Hiring managers within the University and within the business community. They will seek and develop new employment opportunities for the students.
Another Careers vision is the creation of at least 10 short graduate internships. These will be designed for graduates who face particular challenges within the labour market. They will be offered an internship either within or brokered by the University. This project, however, is currently early in the stages of development.
When asked about the biggest mistake the students do in terms of their career, Evans responded: “They generally start thinking about their employability skills only when they are applying for a job. That is too late.”
As one of the approaching opportunities to prepare for future interview, he pointed out the assessment centres. Those are a simulation of assessment methods that the employers use during the selection process. The closest one will take place in February, offering a place for approximately 50 students.
More information can be found on the Careers website: www.lancaster.ac.uk/careers