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How Birmingham City University is tackling the lockdown emloyability and business support challenge

The covid-19 pandemic has hit businesses large and small with an array of challenges. This article outlines how BCU is tackling the prospect of students graduating into a disrupted employment market as the end of the academic year approaches.

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A recent report by The Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) highlighted some of the concerns expressed by UK students graduating in 2020 and starting their professional careers. Over three-quarters (79%) felt confident of getting a graduate level job once they graduate but when asked about their feelings towards entering the labour market, most (28%) cited anxiety as their number one feeling.

Since early March, the BCU’s Employer Engagement Team and student careers service – Careers+, have been working on a range of support for students, graduates and the regional employer base - developing opportunities to bring the groups together in a virtual environment.

Online support for students and graduates

As the pandemic lockdown started to take effect in March, the Careers+ team took steps to move their service offer online. Jo Howell, Head of Careers and Employability explains;

“We acted quickly to move our careers interviews and advice service online making sure we could continue to support students and graduates with CV checking, job applications and bespoke careers and employment advice through online appointments”.

“We are also continuing programmes such as our mentoring scheme and supporting faculty colleagues with their work in developing students professional and career management skills at what is an extremely busy time. One great example is our Health Careers+ team supporting the Biomedical Engineering course team with an online employer engagement event where third year integrated Master’s programme students presented their dissertation projects to a range of industry specialists”.

Mentoring scheme

The popular Careers+ Mentoring Programme will this year match over 300 students with professional mentors from a range of industries. The latest ten-week scheme kicks off this month. Frankie Galati, Mentoring Programme Officer;

“This programme always has more of an online focus as we anticipate that many students will not be on campus around this time after completing exams so the lockdown hasn’t impacted too negatively in that way”.

“We give priority to our final year students and graduates and aim to match as many students as we can with mentors. Some of our mentors and employer contacts have been furloughed but have still approached us to ask if they and their staff can get involved and use this time to develop their skills through volunteering”.

Online support packages for local employers

BCU has continued providing support to local employers since the start of lock-down as Head of Employer Engagement, Andrew Davies explains;

“One of the first things we undertook  was a survey of employer contacts to gauge what types of help they were looking for in lock-down. What came back was a strong call for online training packages, covering commercial and well being themes”.

“In mid-April, we launched the first of two free webinar series – the first focusing on social media skills such as online customer relationships and e-commerce hosted by JC Social Media. The second programme delivered by Akeila Browne Coaching tackles health and well-being issues including productivity and building trust.  Initial feedback from participants has been extremely positive. Feedback has been extremely positive, with one participant saying:

I learned something new on Friday.  Not only did I recognise my own anxieties … but I also recognised the stress cycle within my employees, one in particular and thought about how I can manage aspects of it as an employer by creating 'certainty' for her. 

Meet the employer events

Investment Bank, Deutsche Bank contacted BCU to promote their Operations Talent Programme and were looking for graduates and students completing their courses to apply. Graduate Talent Consultant, Warren Chughtai;

 “We worked with Deutsche Bank to set up a virtual ‘Meet the Recruiter’ event to provide a real insight into company culture, what it’s like to work at Deutsche Bank. We also covered application and interview tips. This was followed by a Q&A session with students asking some great questions.

 “Over 100 students engaged with the event and we are now following up with Deutsche Bank to see how many applications they received”

For more information about recruitment BCU students and graduates visit the BCU Advantage website