Session one: where are the gaps?

Student Focus Group session one: 
Where are the gaps?

Session overview

  • Thursday 19 October 2017 (18 students)
  • CES staff/guests: Emily Packer, Alena Tkacova, Siwan Tyack, Francesca Ivaldi

The aim of this first session was to introduce the Student Focus Group and for the CES Management team (for curriculum) to come and discuss the outcomes from the previous years’ focus group sessions. In this session the topic was open to the floor and had the theme of ‘Where are the gaps?’ allowing students in attendance to give their perception on what they would like to see from the service, which does not happen already. When feedback was given, if a suggestion for an event/service was made which already happens we discussed this in more detail.

Alumni engagement/use of students in career activity

Main topics of concern and interest

  • implementing alumni into careers curriculum activity
  • careers events involving alumni
  • students learning more about postgraduate study and placement realities from current students/alumni.

Main discussion

In this topic (as chosen by the student group) the students expressed a strong interest in the engagement of alumni within careers events, activity and curriculum sessions. They recognised that this happens in some programmes/courses but it does not have a wide scope to all courses and depends on the CA/tutor. 

Students also discussed how valuable PALS is to students and by having a similar programme that is careers focused, with particular mention of postgraduate study and placements as areas where this could add particular value. 

Group were united on the idea that students like to listen to other students.

Would like to see

  • alumni events where they talk about the benefits of placements, internships, their experiences and jobs in their field
  • postgraduate feedback from current students and alumni to help inform choices in relation to career choices (how it is helping their career or helped get a graduate role)
  • alumni panels in curriculum to discuss their career paths and finding graduate jobs.

Careers events

Main topics of interest or concern

  • value of programme specific careers and placement fairs
  • mentoring
  • networking
  • promotions

Main discussion

Students from marine biology and sociology, international relations/politics and English who were present felt that they would like to see careers and placements fairs more specific to their subject. They also discussed occupation-based fairs, such as teaching. 

The group discussed with EP, attendance to fairs and the staff resource vs impact considering the number of students who are likely to attend. Students felt that this was due to advertising and students not being aware of opportunities. We noted promotions could be discussed in a separate focus group. Students suggested that, if there was to be one big fair, it should happen twice a year.

Students were pleased there was a mentoring programme in place and the group itself has students taking part in this. The selective criteria does mean it is not available to everyone, even though it is a programme that is useful to everyone. So this is a gap worth addressing.

Students were keen on the networking evenings and appreciate the ability to access professionals whilst improving networking skills. Keen on getting industry relevant information from employers face-to-face. If this could happen twice a year it would allow students to speak to more employers and allow more access to students who did not/could not attend the Autumn event.

Promotions continued to be a topic for discussion, with a faculty specific events calendar being suggested, as well as more coverage across Freshers’ Week and a questionnaire on enrolment that allows students to enrol to a newsletter tailored to their career interests. There was discussion around the resource needed for this and the implications of information having too narrow of a focus if chosen by the student at enrolment (lack of exploration). Another group reiterated their interest in a questionnaire at enrolment that allowed them to sign-up to a careers newsletter that gave them specific events and careers information each month. Almost all students felt that currently there was not enough campus-wide promotion and events were either hard to find or the events calendar was not clear enough about why an event might be interesting to them. The group suggested that clearer organisation, in curriculum promotion and emails/newsletters would help this.

Would like to see

  • specific careers fairs for programmes that are targeted to niche fields (rather than the perception that an employer that takes any degree is relevant enough)
  • mentor programme to be more accessible, widely offered
  • networking evenings to continue, ideally twice a year.

Information for Stage One

Main topics of interest and concern

  • promotional materials to support induction
  • range of talks available to first years in and out of curriculum, including placements
  • employer engagement to support confidence and relationship building.

Main comments

Students felt that first year was a prime time to introduce all aspects of career planning and not just an induction regarding the service, which comes at a time when they have lots of information they have to manage. Induction is valuable in giving an overview of services and should be kept. It would be valuable to have an induction pack for the careers service which keeps all the information about services and events together and is easy to reference.

Some students discussed that they would like to have more Careers Adviser presence in their curriculum and timetabled talks on how to get the most out of networking, placements and how to research and prepare before applying in Stage 2 and exposure to employers to help build relationships. They were particularly keen to hear more about the Plymouth Award in their timetabled sessions.

One group suggested a Careers Service ‘Panel’ to help discuss all the aspects of the service in one go. More specific advice and interaction with the Careers Service in the curriculum would be welcomed by first years who were present at the group. They specifically mentioned an embedded module to "start a fun way of thinking to engage personal development and skills development [sic]."

Would like to see

  • more interaction from Careers Service in curriculum
  • specific information on placements, networking and employer engagement
  • induction pack of materials to consolidate induction
  • compulsory 1st module by school.

Miscellaneous ideas

1. Hub should have frosted appointment doors and not the bubbles.

2. Employ a Careers and Employability Ambassador to promote events more consistently. Exists on an ad-hoc basis.

3. Train and use student course reps more effectively to promote events and share activity/opportunities with students.