How virtual employability events are preparing students to enter the post-pandemic workforce

Submitted by ashton.wenborn on Mon, 04/12/2021 - 11:53

Sponsored content: created in partnership with the University of Manchester.

It’s an uncertain time for students. Headlines warn us that employment prospects have been diminished by the pandemic, and many graduates who do start work can’t meet their colleagues in person. Meanwhile, the labour market is shifting so rapidly that it’s hard to know what qualifications will be most sought after.

The University of Manchester understands that employability is a key consideration for students, which is why it prioritises creating job-ready students. The university stands at number 53 on the Times Higher Education Global University Employability Ranking and boasts relationships with more than 7,000 graduate recruiters, from global brands to small enterprises.

“This is not just about getting a job,” explains Noeleen Hammond Jones, international career consultant at the university. “We work with students even before they arrive through to when they secure a role with an employer. They benefit from the relationships we’ve developed throughout the entire student life cycle.” 

Manchester has a vast alumni network that helps to build these employer relationships, with former students developing and offering internships, speaking at events and providing insights into their industries.

“They’ve been in the same position as the students are now and can help them visualise the process of getting into graduate employment, adding further credibility to the advice they’re already getting from our Careers Service,” adds Hammond Jones.

One of the areas they can advise on is the expectations placed on new starters, including basic workplace skills such as communicating effectively and problem-solving. If you’re an international student, this can be particularly helpful. “It can be basic things such as contracts, sick leave and annual leave, which are not necessarily global concepts,” Hammond Jones says. “They can help them see what’s expected, [and] how to navigate the workplace and work out what’s acceptable.”

Students can download workshops on work readiness to watch later and there are plans to develop a session on online etiquette to reflect the fact that many graduates may not start their new role in an office, but from home. These workshops can be attended live and are available on demand after the event, while blogs and newsletters offer additional resources to keep students updated.

For undergraduates looking to boost their employability prospects, the university offers extracurricular activities that can help develop the soft skills organisations look for. Manchester offers a bespoke award programme called Stellify, which offers a range of personalised experiences centred around building social responsibility and adaptability. Students can also take part in the Manchester Leadership Programme as part of their degree. This includes community volunteering opportunities, units on ethical leadership and resources on building digital literacy. 

With the World Economic Forum suggesting that half of all work tasks could be automated by 2025, possessing uniquely human skills – such as adapting to change or displaying empathy – will provide a boost to job applications.

International careers fairs, usually a frequent feature on the university calendar, have had to move online in the past year. Many sources of information for prospective and current students thinking ahead are still available, however. “Having to move into the digital sphere has enabled us to diversify the types of events and engagement opportunities we’re able to offer students virtually, and this applies to both university-wide and careers-specific events,” explains international officer Anisa Atlasi.

The university launched the Virtual Manchester hub in early 2021 as a platform for live webinars, live chat events and virtual open days. The online events include live talks on careers and employability as well as virtual campus tours.

Manchester’s Careers Service has developed a series of webinar events. Working in collaboration with the Division of Development and Alumni Relations, its Meet the Professionals series shines a spotlight on sectors such as law, marketing and finance, and provides insights into career prospects in particular regions.

Other sessions cover recruitment processes at different organisations, how companies are adapting to the demands of the pandemic and the skills employers are looking for now and into the future. This knowledge is invaluable for students as they begin applying for work placements and graduate roles.

This March, the University of Manchester organised the Asia Careers Insight Series, comprising more than 70 events and workshops in partnership with 16 other UK universities. Sessions included information on internships with major employers, including Alibaba, AstraZeneca, Bloomberg, Deloitte, EY, KPMG, PayPal, Shopee, TikTok and Unilever.

“Moving our careers fair online this year has meant we can have more employers than we would normally have on campus, and student engagement has been huge,” adds Hammond Jones. Students could chat live with employers online or enter breakout rooms to ask questions and meet other students and alumni. “We want to make it as interactive as possible,” Hammond Jones says. 

Manchester also supports international students via its scholarship routes. The Global Futures Scholarship, for example, offers a total of £300,000 in funding to international students who can meet the eligibility criteria. GREAT Scholarships, in conjunction with the British Council, are open to students with an offer for a master’s course at the university who also meet the country and programme eligibility criteria. Certain schools offer subject- and region-specific scholarships, some of which cover full tuition fees and some living expenses. 

For international students thinking about applying for a UK university this year, it’s worth bearing in mind that it will become an even more attractive prospect from July. This will see the opening of a new graduate visa route, allowing international students who have completed an undergraduate or postgraduate degree in the UK to stay and work for two years (or three for PhD students).

The University of Manchester is increasing its engagement with international students, ensuring our careers advice and support continue to be accessible to all students.

Employers are embracing the new normal. “Some sectors have exploded and are hiring huge numbers of graduates – they know they don’t have to rely on the best local talent as everyone can work remotely. They can find students from anywhere in the world,” Hammond Jones concludes.

Find out more about the University of Manchester.


The pandemic has pressed pause on international careers fairs, but students can still explore their futures virtually

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