09 June 2020

The level of engagement with careers events has more than doubled at the University of East London (UEL) since lockdown, according to Professor Amanda Broderick, vice-chancellor and president.

Speaking at a webinar organised by Universities UK, Professor Broderick said that although virtual events will never truly replace face-to-face contact, there have been benefits to moving online.

At the University of East London, we have seen a 200 per cent increase in sign-ups for our careers events. The ease of delivery for our external partners means higher engagement, allowing careers teams to present a broader offering to students.

"A remote space will never quite match the experience of networking face-to-face, but it is clear there are many benefits to making careers services more dynamic and industry 4.0 compatible,"

Professor Broderick, vice-chancellor and president of UEL, said.

The start of lockdown saw universities swiftly move to remote delivery. Within days careers services had shifted activities such as mentoring, coaching and internships online. As a result, organisers quickly discovered it was possible to engage greater numbers of students and drive a level of attendance that no amount of promotion had achieved in the past.

Professor Broderick also highlighted the University's focus on breaking down the boundaries between work and study and spoke about the rise of remote internships and the advantages they hold for students.

As with remote delivery of careers services, remote internships offer the opportunity to remove some of the barriers for students who were previously unable to engage with internships due to time constraints.

Professor Broderick said, "Where, in the past, SMEs (small and medium enterprises) may have struggled to host interns due to lack of office space, virtual internships offer the opportunity to increase their workforce at little or no cost. Around a third of the graduate population typically work for SMEs, so increasing internships in this area will not only help smaller businesses to grow, but also put them in a better position to recruit graduates in the future.

"Larger corporates have started using software such as InsideSherpa to facilitate their internship schemes. There is a growing number of platforms available to support virtual internships, but they may not be necessary, as offering many of the same aspects of a traditional in-person internship such as regular meetings with the supervisor and teammates, learning about the company culture and how the industry works, will ensure a valuable experience for interns."

Professor Broderick added, "Developing digital fluency throughout the University and creating learning experiences and spaces which meet the needs of future students, employers and entrepreneurs, is how we will future-proof the organisation and ensure success for our graduates."

During the event, Stephen Isherwood, chief executive officer, Institute of Student Employers (ISE) shared how careers services could use insights from student employers to support recent and soon-to-be graduates.

Research by ISE found that the graduate market is suffering less than the non-graduate market. He said that up to 90 per cent of graduate job offers that were made before the crisis were kept open.

Speaking at the webinar, he said, "The conversation is now shifting to what is going to happen this autumn. In the initial phase of the crisis, employers were very much in crisis management mode. Now employers and institutions have started to think about what the future might look like. There is still a lot of uncertainty, but employers are starting to say that online interviews and assessment centres are going to stay."

His advice to students was, "Yes, it is a tough job market right now, but it is not shut down."

Michelle Craig, marketing manager UK at JobTeaser, told delegates that universities could use the lockdown experience to create a great online "careers service experience" in order to support students through uncertain times.

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