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Careers and employability support highlighted nationally

University of Chester initiatives to support students during the pandemic to prepare for their next steps after graduating are being highlighted nationally.

The guidance and activities offered by the Careers and Employability team have quickly adapted this year to include increased one-to-one online support, paid virtual internships, and sessions on finding a job during a pandemic.

The approach has been chosen to feature in a special edition of Phoenix, the journal of the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS), showcasing how university careers services have responded to the challenges posed by COVID-19.

In the article, Hannah Perkins, Training and Events Co-ordinator at the University, outlines how the team changed the delivery of the Chester Difference Award (CDA) programme and other activities during 2020.

The CDA is an employability accreditation which recognises students who take part in a variety of extra-curricular activities during their time at the University of Chester. The Award is designed to help students reflect on their experiences, articulate their skills and enhance their employability.

The changes, already in planning before lockdown, have enabled students to more easily complete their CDA, whatever their location. Students are encouraged to consider any support they provide in their communities and complete independent research into a career area of interest while benefitting from increased one-to-one support, updated messages and more flexibility in the availability of the team. The CDA has also been opened up to alumni, up to two years after graduating.

Students have welcomed the support provided, with feedback including “communication during the lockdown period has been fantastic, and the online assessment centre worked extremely well” from student Paris Flint. As many students completed the CDA as in previous years and attendance at events, which are now virtual, between April and June increased by almost 150% compared to the same period in 2019.

Virtual events have included a Focus on Your Futures Week for final year undergraduate students, with sessions on finding a job during the pandemic, and the service’s Graduate Head Start programme included a Q&A session with graduates of 2008 talking about their experiences of graduating in a recession.

In addition, the team has started delivering paid virtual internships with local employers, and its enterprise programme Venture, which offers funds to grow new businesses, has been made available online.

Miss Perkins said: “It was a privilege to share how we have evolved to help students overcome the challenges created by COVID-19 as much as possible, and work towards achieving their career aspirations.

“We know next year will be different but by taking a blended approach, we can offer even more opportunities to prepare students and graduates for their next steps, whatever working life looks like in the future.”

Diane Appleton, Head of Careers and Employability, said: “It’s more important than ever that students and graduates have opportunities to enhance their employability skills and are ready for a very competitive job market.

“The landscape has changed and is still changing - but our students and alumni can engage with our initiatives remotely from anywhere in the world, and we are here to support them in different ways to develop as individuals and contribute to the organisation and community in which they will work and live.”

For further information on the University of Chester’s Careers and Employability service, please visit: www.chester.ac.uk/careers-and-employability.

To read the AGCAS journal article, please go to: www.agcas.org.uk.

Pictured -  Hannah Perkins, Training and Events Co-ordinator at the University of Chester.

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