Session one: Student Jobs

Student Focus Group session one: Student Jobs

Session overview

  • Thursday 25 October 2018 (11 students)
  • CES Staff/Guests: Emily Packer, Alena Tkacova, Mark Beresford (Careers Consultant), Rhian Smith (Employability Assistant), Catrin Thomas (Employability Assistant), Jean Almond (Alumni Engagement Manager), Nina Kearney (Employability Projects Co-ordinator) 

Topic 1: What are the benefits of having a student job and how can we advertise it to students?

Main topics of concern and interest

Reflecting on the matter from the point of view of the student, several student- centric concerns and interests were raised. These include earnings, flexible working times, meeting new people and building confidence. However, an overall emphasis on the recognition of the various transferable skills which can be applied to the CV were of interest, as well as using these skills to help the student with issues regarding coursework. The suggestions regarding promotion were predominately focused on a wider campaign of visual advertising around campus, promoting individual case studies, ambassador roles and more job fairs.

Whilst the overall discussion confirmed that the need for promotional material on campus is wanted and desired by many students, many of the suggestions given during this session already exist in some capacity. For example, it was highlighted that a second part-time jobs fair in the spring would be of use, although this is already in place. This did however highlight the importance of potentially renaming the fair – Summer Jobs Fair – which might suggest summer contracts only.

Main discussion

The group began with outlining the obvious benefits to having student jobs. These included but were not limited to factors such as money, building confidence, flexible working hours and an opportunity of working on or around campus, (the latter therefore having an easy commute). From further discussion there seemed to be two types of desired jobs – one of which is working on campus and the second making links with relevant employers in the industry.

It was unsurprising that working on campus was a popular option because of its convenience and an ongoing familiar environment. The group was aware that there are student jobs in various roles/departments but it was noted that they are not always easily identified. Posters of case studies on social media and around the campus would raise the awareness and popularity. In general, case studies seem to have been the most obvious way of promotion as students appreciate encouragement from their peers. There was also a suggestion that student workers could wear a ‘Student Worker’ badge to show that others can apply for this role too.

Further discussion revealed that there is a little understanding about what kind of roles ambassadors get involved with. Whilst, not everyone wants to work on Open Days, the group discuss they would appreciate knowing about other opportunities that are available. There was a consensus that this should be clearly outlined somewhere e.g. having its own notice board/poster.

A popular way of promoting jobs on or around campus was through Job Fairs. Students suggested that there should be another part time jobs fair later on in the year. This is already in place, as Summer Opportunities jobs fair. The name however appears to suggest that the offer is for summer jobs only and so the group jointly agreed that changing the name would be beneficial. There was also a concern that both fairs seem to be advertising Christmas/Summer contracts mainly and students usually need jobs throughout the year. Another suggestion was to have several smaller fairs and some for campus roles only.

The skills gained from part time work were amongst the most recognised benefits in the session. These include improving the CV and therefore chances of getting graduate employment but also improving performance on the course through skills like team work, time management, etc. This led to a suggestion that all jobs should be advertised with skills embedded in the job description - e.g. to improve your public speaking. The group further suggested that there should be an option to filter the job board by skills. So students can search for vacancies to improve their transferable skills. 

It was mentioned that timing of promotion is also crucial. The group suggested that the emphasis should be based on the first and second year students, mainly due to a smaller study work load. In such, also highlighting benefits of building confidence and meeting new people. It was suggested that an approach could be advertising in Halls ideally at times when students have more free time, and when 1st year students are leaving – e.g. ‘’find a job for your 2nd year’’. Having a ‘’Tell Your Friend’’ was also suggested to boost promotion. Apart from posters and welcome pack, the group highlighted that there is a need from promotion from SU staff to point students to the Hub.

Would like to see

  • More visibility of jobs around campus through promoted case studies and Student Jobs badges worn by student workers
  • Opportunities available to Student Ambassadors other than Open Days
  • More smaller Job Fairs, possibly a Campus Roles Fair staffed by student workers
  • Promotion of transferable skills gained/developed through the job and how this improves CV as well as the performance on the course
  • An option to search/filter the job board by skills. Introducing tags for transferable skills
  • Advertising in Halls at times when students have more free time

Topic 2: Platforms for engagement 

Main topics of concern and interest

The group reviewed the printed material and offered feedback with suggestions on improvement. The most of the discussion focussed on social media dos and don’ts. However the focus group concluded there is need for face to face promotion in lectures. 

Main discussion

The discussion acknowledged the current offer of open mornings and drop-in information sessions but suggested this may feel a little bit intimidating for some students. The group confirmed suggestions from last year that they would like to hear about events etc. in their lectures, whether this is carried out by careers advisors or lecturers. This way they can be told about why is such event/job useful.

The feedback on printed material, in particular the SJ A6 card, advised that the content is misleading. The card reads ‘’SJ work on your behalf to find jobs…’’ which suggests to students that the team provides recruitment service. The group also suggested that one side of the card appears visually pretty but is of no use whilst the other side is too wordy. The group proposed the KISS format – ‘keep it simple stupid’.

The majority of discussion focused on the use of social media. Facebook was noted to be up to date and clear. Instagram was liked for use of bright colours and clear contact details as well links at the top. It was advised to push more ‘instastories’ and updates like posters with job descriptions, to be posted more regularly – daily. Twitter was appraised for case studies and engaging tweets about the ambassadors. The group suggested that students there are too many ambassador posts at the moment (however the focus group is run at the time when ambassadors are being recruited) and would like to see other posts as well as more that are interactive (videos, GIFs, photos). In general, if a vacancy is posted, the students want to see a photo (e.g. logo), short description, hours, pay and the exact location. The location seemed to be the key problem with some posts that have gone out. It was noted that these are either missing certain details or not explained properly. It was also noted that not everyone knows where the ‘hub’ is and so to add RLB.

It was highlighted that students don’t really use social media to look for jobs and so the promotion of MyCareer may work better. Students really like case studies and would appreciate posts like job reviews from other students. Competitions are also desired and the group commented that they would like to see follow ups and updates on those. Other suggestions included posting tips on searching and applying for jobs and job jargon e.g. pro rata. 

Would like to see

  • Face to face promotions in lectures
  • Simple and clear marketing material avoid misleading content, less wordy and clear on location 
  • Less posts about ambassadors, make other posts just as interactive though through videos, GIFs, photos
  • Posts like job reviews from students, tips for applying and job jargon tips e.g. pro rata 
  • More interactive posts like polling, competitions (include updates and follow ups after competitions)

Topic 3: Employer Guide – what do employers need to know and what do students want to see

Main topics of concern and interest

The group discussed what attracts students to the vacancy and what they want to know when they are applying. Discussion revealed that the pay, the exact location and the hours (flexibility) need to be included otherwise it’s considered too vague. The group also suggested adding other benefits and including skills that the job will develop.

Apart from ‘’employer guide’’, the focus group also suggested tips for ‘’student guide’’ which would demystify the process of recruitment and explain important terms.

Main discussion

One of the main reasons that students may skip the vacancy can be attributed to is not enough details or vague description. The group advised that often they see a ‘’competitive’’ salary listed or location just ‘’Plymouth’’. It was also mentioned that they would like to see the salary and the exact location, ideally including a postcode. Students also suggested to add any benefits that are available e.g. staff discount.

It is desired for employer to show personality and enthusiasm to get students on board and to show history of being ‘’student friendly’’. This could be demonstrated by outlining exact hours, flexibility and possibility to swap and change shifts. 

Another suggestion around the job description was to make it more informative in terms of outlining the day to day responsibilities and any potential added costs e.g. uniform. Further discussion again highlighted benefits of adding skills which the job would develop in order to promote the vacancy.

Clarity of the recruitment process has also been suggested to improve on. Adding closing date for applications as well as interview date or starting date (and if flexible). Having a section e.g. ‘What happens now’ to indicate what may occur after submitting applications and what the recruitment process looks like. Students also made a point of transport issues and suggested offering skype interviews as an option.
Students also discussed benefits of creating a student guide which could offer general advice on working while studying. The discussion suggested a support pages with advice regarding minimum wage, work/study balance and what a good job looks like. This may also include contract help and warning signs etc. This could also outline jobs relevant to courses and skills that could be developed. A glossary of roles was discussed to explain job names which can also offer alternative names and listing 3 main responsibilities.

The question of how to promote and share employer/student guides was jointly agreed online or via email, as an e-guide which could be interactive and include videos of students/employers.

Would like to see

  • Employer to disclose full details of the vacancy including the exact salary, hours and location (postcode)
  • Flexibility of hours and employers showing history of being student friendly
  • Clarity of the recruitment process and dates
  • List skills that could be developed on the job 
  • A student guide which would offer support and help pages on work related issues including contracts or minimum wage, roles glossary and skills related to their degree programme

Plymouth Connect Vote

Following up from the last year’s focus group, the Alumni team took on board the suggestion to change the name of the Career Champion and came back with three alternative names for the group to vote on: 

  • Graduate in Industry
  • Graduate Adviser 
  • Graduate Guide

The Graduate Adviser won the vote of majority.