University of Leicester employability event exhibits entrepreneurial skills

Posted by pt91 at Dec 16, 2011 12:25 PM |
‘Hidden curriculum’ boosts students’ skills for the world of work

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 16 December 2011

On 14th December, a University of Leicester event funded by the National Higher Education STEM Programme saw potential employers giving direct input into graduates’ final degrees.

It is part of The Business Project, a new module in the third year of BSc Mathematics degrees, and contributes a sixth of the final year marks. In addition it provides experience and skills which are invaluable in gaining a high prestige first job.

It aims to equip students with skills provided by the ‘hidden curriculum’; something that is often ignored in the world of University academia.

The event had an Apprentice-esque feel to it, though far more useful and without the big personalities. The teams involved have been asked to set up a drinks company in Eastern Europe and this event saw them give their final presentations where the winners of this business game were crowned.  Those assessing the presentations were potential employers who graded the candidates and provided useful feedback that will help them prepare for the working world.

Professor Jeremy Levesley from the Department of Mathematics is the leader of this project and comments: “Employers want graduates with life-skills; people with great communication skills they can adapt to fit any situation, who show respect and can relate to other people.

“In our current method of grading students it is just as likely that a person who displays these attributes could be achieving a 2:2 as it is that they could be a achieving a 1st. I want to see degree courses incorporating extra-curricular activities that improve employability and life-skills in general.”

This project will help the barrier between universities and employers disappear and more importantly, it will facilitate in University’s aim of keeping its graduates in Leicester. Through this project, the University can collaborate with small-medium businesses and create mutually beneficial relationships.

For students, by approaching companies instead of waiting for the companies to come to them, they have been able to suggest ways that their skills could improve an aspect of a particular organisation and have subsequently been hired to see their suggestion through as a project.

Charlotte Quarmby, a Mathematics student who has taken part in the employability project, beat out hundreds of applicants in the race for a job as an Actuary in London and believes the project is the reason she stood out from all the others that applied.

She said, “The opportunity to use the mathematics that we have learnt in the lectures to solve problems faced by businesses in the real world brought great clarity and purpose to my education.”

Employers have also had very positive experiences of the project. For example Alstom, a large multinational conglomerate which holds interests in the power generation and transport markets comments; "Over the last year we have had three interns from the University of Leicester to work in the Methodologies for Tools Department at the Alstom site in Rugby. We were very impressed with their technical skills, enthusiasm & pro-active work attitude and delighted with the technical progress each of them made. They all exceeded our expectations and made a positive contribution to the work of the group as well as gaining valuable experience themselves.”

Professor Levesley hopes that this event will be the first of many and is optimistic for the future regarding the spread of this project to other departments within the University: “Employers are increasingly looking beyond academic achievement at the broader skills that prepare students for the world of work. Projects like this ensure that our graduates are leaving Leicester with those skills, and knowing how to demonstrate them to the employers.”

Notes to editors:

Professor Jeremy Levesley

Department of Mathematics

University of Leicester

Leicester LE1 7RH

Email: jl1@le.ac.uk

Tel: 0116 2523897

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