Although finding a job may seem a long way off when students are applying for university, it is still important that they start considering job prospects and employability.
Universities offer a range of services to help students appear attractive to employers, so looking at and understanding these before applying could have an impact on their final UCAS choice.
One of the first things a student should look at would be the graduate prospects and employment rates of courses, as these provide a good indication of how successful previous students have been and how employers view the degree.
These figures can usually be found in prospectuses, alongside details of accreditations. Accreditations ensure that the teaching of a course is of a high standard but can also be a legal requirement for some employers. Researching how active a university’s employability team is will also reveal how involved they are with supporting students. For example, Swansea University’s Employability Academy encourages students to gain work experience through their award scheme, provides support for those wanting to start their own business and holds Careers Masterclasses throughout the academic year. Taking time to get involved with these opportunities not only enhances a student’s knowledge of their sector but also shows initiative.
Extending a degree by taking a year in industry is another way a student can become more employable. This involves spending their third year of study on a work placement, primarily organised by the student with help from the university’s industry links. Working in their intended sector in this way can enhance their knowledge of the industry, keep them up to date with the latest developments and help to build skills specific to the workplace.
On a personal level, it can also make the individual more focused in their final year and assist with character building by improving their confidence and maturity. These are all features that future employers will look for in a candidate. Having this direct contact with an employer through a year in industry also opens up the possibility of being offered a job post-graduation, as companies often prefer to hire from within.
An alternative option to taking a year in industry would be to study abroad. To do so, students can take a year or a semester out, or go away over the summer. Once abroad, there is the option to study at a university, teach in a school or complete a work placement. Each of these opportunities would build up personal and professional skills in a similar way to working in industry, but also give students a chance to experience a new culture and expand their network.
These are a few examples of what to look for when applying to a university, but often any work completed outside of the degree will be evidence of a student’s drive and enthusiasm towards the sector, making them more attractive to an employer.
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