Career corners: a simple way to improve student job preparation

Many students enter their final year with no idea what they wish to do after university. Career corners aim to help by providing job and industry overviews that facilitate informed choices

Alexander Bradley's avatar
The University of Portsmouth
16 Mar 2022
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The Office for Students’ new B3 consultation will require all university courses in England to have 60 per cent of their students entering professional jobs or further study, yet many students reach third year with no idea what they would like to do.

To help, we developed career corners, which are short five- to 10-minute sessions at the end of a lecture, offering a brief summary of a potential career path. We try to cover at least 20 different career options over two core modules in the second year. This means students can identify where their preferences lie and have time to apply for relevant volunteering, work experience, internship or placement years to support a smooth transition from university into work.

Careful planning between module coordinators is essential, though, to ensure careers are not repeated. Each career corner contains five key sections:

  • an overview of the role;
  • working conditions and progression;
  • how to get there;
  • hiring organisations;
  • useful resources to learn more about the role.

We will now review what should be included in each of the five sections and provide a working example of a psychological well-being practitioner to help illustrate.

Overview of the role: provide a synopsis on what the role is, and the day-to-day tasks the incumbent would be expected to conduct. This helps students get a sense of whether they would enjoy the role. For example, a psychological well-being practitioner (PWP) assesses and supports individuals with mild to moderate mental conditions such as depression. On a daily basis, you will have a series of 20- to 30-minute sessions with clients, where you will conduct patient-centred interviews, create treatment plans, provide interventions such as cognitive behavioural therapy or make referrals to alternative services.

Working conditions and progression: this covers pay and should give students a sense of starting salary and how that may progress over time. Inform them of typical contract types, location of work and conventional working patterns. For example, trainee PWPs typically start on £24,157 and once qualified can earn up to £30,000, with management positions earning more. Typically, you will work a standard 37.5 hour-week in a GP surgery or health centre setting and after a probationary period will be on a permanent contract.

How to get there: provide information on relevant qualifications and the types of work experience that would help students to get into that profession. For PWP roles a low intensity Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) or PWP course approved by the British Psychological Society (BPS) on behalf of the IAPT programme is required. To get on to courses you will need to have secured a training scheme. Candidates who have relevant work experience supporting people with their mental health will be more likely to succeed in getting a training scheme.

Hiring organisations: give students a sense of the primary employers within a particular occupation. In the case of PWP roles, the main employers are the NHS or mental health charities such as Mind or Turning Point, which have been commissioned to provide IAPT services.

Useful resources: help students learn more about the career, perhaps through directing them to relevant professional bodies, trade organisations, or more potential employers. For example, PWP-approved courses can be found on the BPS website and trainee PWP posts are advertised at NHS jobs, Mind and Turning Point.

The beauty of this simple idea is that it helps raise students’ awareness of the range of possibilities beyond their degree. It helps bring to their attention careers that they might really enjoy yet have never heard of, let alone considered.

For academics, these resources are easy and quick to put together, with most of the information you’ll need available from sites such as Prospects and Target Jobs and your own university careers service. In my experience, they improve students’ module evaluations, with students leaving positive comments about how much they liked them and how useful they were in helping them decide on future careers.

Career corners offer a practical, simple way to help students make informed decisions about their futures. For universities under pressure to keep courses above the 60 per cent progression targets set by the OFS, career corners may prove a valuable addition to their core course content.

Alexander Bradley is a senior lecturer at the University of Portsmouth.

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