Conference to focus on producing graduates with the skills that employers want

Posted by ap507 at Jun 22, 2015 04:50 PM |
Event on 30 June will examine how employer engagement can contribute to teaching, curricula and the academic offer

Issued by the University of Leicester Press Office on 22 June 2015

The University of Leicester is enlisting the help of graduate recruiters and employer representatives to identify how its curricula can encourage students to develop the “soft skills” needed in the work place.

Academics and members of the Career Development Service are working with employers to explore how the characteristics that students develop during their course can enhance their prospects in professional employment.

The approach, which goes beyond simply providing placements and internships by embedding work readiness in the curriculum, will be the focus of the University’s third annual learning and teaching conference on June 30.

Beyond the Placement: Where Next? will explore employer engagement and how it can contribute to teaching, curricula and the academic offer.

Professor Mark Peel, Leicester’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Student Experience, said: “Many of our departments have already taken an approach to employer engagement that goes well beyond securing placements and internships. While those opportunities are very important for our students and graduates, we also want to think about employers and graduate recruiters as critical friends in designing curricula and assessment and being co-authors of provision.”

Sessions at the conference include a presentation by Dr Dylan Williams, from Leicester’s Department of Chemistry, who will talk about integrating workplace skills in a science focused curriculum. Dr Sarah Gretton and Professor Derek Raine, from the University’s Centre for Interdisciplinary Science, will explore students’ perceptions of embedded employability skills.  

When students arrive at Leicester, they are already registered on MyCareers, which is the gateway to all the opportunities on offer, from volunteeringenterprise and business start-up, to elected officers and student group leadership.

They are also encouraged to undertake the Leicester Award, designed to help students develop, assess, recognise and record the employability skills they are developing. The Award was developed with input from leading graduate recruiters, is accredited by the University and noted on degree transcripts.

Now the university is talking to its employer advisory board, which has representatives from Jaguar, IBM, Teach First, Deloitte, the European Commission and others, about new ways to imbue graduates with the necessary professional attributes.

“Employers are more and more interested in soft skills, in a potential employee’s disposition as well as their knowledge,” said Professor Peel. “As well as being concerned with mastery of a field, they are interested in the kind of person the graduate is and in characteristics such as resilience, self-awareness, a global outlook, an ability to be self-reflective about future learning, and a readiness to make mistakes and undertake challenges.”

From next year, the University is reforming its curricula to offer potential students the opportunity to study a major and a minor subject, alongside our existing single and joint honours degrees.

Among the minors, which will make up a quarter of a course, will be options that highlight vocational competencies, soft skills, enterprise and entrepreneurship, ethics, and community engagement and outreach.

In order to provide a wider range of opportunities for students to develop important soft skills outside as well as inside the classroom, the university is also introducing a peer mentoring scheme, in which second year students will mentor first-year students, as well as a student volunteering scheme to encourage even more involvement in outreach and public engagement by University of Leicester students.

“As part of our learning strategy,” said Professor Peel, “we are keen for every student to have the opportunity to engage in a professionalising and transforming experience on and where possible beyond the campus, in a work placement or an internship, as a volunteer, an ambassador, a coach and guide or a mentor.”

The conference will also discuss the “transformational” role that placements and internships can have.

Last year, the University of Leicester launched a new programme to create up to 500 paid internships per year, providing every campus-based home or EU student with an opportunity to benefit from an internship during their degree.

Ends

Notes to Editors

The University of Leicester’s 3rd Annual Learning and Teaching Conference takes place on Tuesday 30th June at College Court conference centre in Leicester. The conference programme can be found at: https://www2.le.ac.uk/offices/lli/events/ltconference/conference-programme.

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