As well as great friends and brilliant memories, you want to leave university with a job - or at least the tools to be able to go and find one. While some degrees have a purely academic focus, others include placements and practical training that have been specifically designed to prepare you for the world of work.
From advice to making the most of your LinkedIn profile, to a workshop on how to start your own business, universities offer much more than just your degree course. If you’re keen to step into the job market as soon as possible then it is definitely worth researching what your favourite universities can offer in terms of industry links and careers expertise.
Beth Copeland graduated from Bucks New University in September 2017 with a degree in Police Studies with Criminal Investigation. Throughout her course she served as a special constable, and she now works in the operations centre answering 999 calls. “I’m going travelling and then when I’m back I’ll enrol as a regular police officer,” she says.
Beth’s course included a number of work placements, which she says were invaluable in making her attractive to employers. “There was a whole module in the first year that looked at the application process to become a special constable,” she says. “Our lecturers were all former police officers and they would talk us through the interviews and proof read our applications – that experience was so helpful.
“Because they had all worked in the field we had the benefit of all their experience – the investigations they had worked on, cases where things had worked well or gone wrong – which brought it all to life.”
Among the facilities available on Beth’s course is a code of practice suite, which includes a bedsit that can be used as a mock crime scene, or for students to role-play entering a home where an offence is in progress. There are also suspect interview rooms and a custody desk. Beth adds: “There were cameras set up to film us so we can watch it all back and really learn the practical ways to deal with certain situations.”
If you are keen on this type of employment-focused course then a degree with work placements or strong connections to your chosen sector is a great starting point. Some courses will involve a year in industry, while others – such as teaching or nursing – will involve long stints of working on rotation in different departments.
As a student nurse at Bucks New University, James Cockburn spent months working in different hospital wards, from haematology to A&E. “We had a lot of time on placement, and it was that level of practical experience that really attracted me to the course,” he says. “Not only does it prepare you for working life and help you make contacts in the industry, it is also the best way to learn.”
Students studying for a degree in adult nursing at Bucks will spend 50% of the programme gaining clinical experience at a variety of locations such as hospitals, prisons and learning disability units. As well as giving you a great CV and loads of first-hand experience to talk about in interviews, it also helps to clarify exactly what type of job you want. James, who enrolled as a mature student, has now graduated and is in further training to be a specialist gastro-intestinal nurse.
Bucks New University even has a Student Ambassador scheme; perfect for helping your bank balance, and honing your customer support skills. Academics and the Careers Team work together to maintain close links with employers to support your job search. The Erasmus study exchange programme offers the opportunity to go global too.
If you are considering a career in a notoriously competitive area such as advertising or design, then a course that helps you engage directly with your chosen industry can be the foot in the door you need.
Simon Lloyd graduated from Bucks New University in 2002, with a BA (Hons) in Graphic Design and Advertising. He was offered his first job at an ad agency following a student showcase organised by his tutors. He is now the interactive creative director at Adam & Eve DDB in London.
“Our lecturers had all worked in the industry,” he says. “That helped a lot, the advice is all genuine and useful. One of the biggest draws for me about Bucks was that it’s half an hour from London but not quite London prices. We were encouraged to go in to London as much as possible and meet people, show our portfolios, and make contacts. “
Again, Simon’s course involved a number of work placements during his second and third years. “That really incentivised me,” he says. “One of the most important things about this industry is also that you understand the level of work and effort involved, and actually, that you realise there are thousands of other people just like you, and it is hard work that makes you stand out.”
Now one of the industry bosses, Simon still holds regular workshops with Bucks New University students. “It helps when your lecturers have great links and a thorough understanding of your industry,” he says. “That’s what Bucks had for me.”