Maybe The Only Way Is…

Yes, that’s right, Essex, or more specifically the University of Essex where Change Gear team member Tom Barwood presented to First year students on the need to get engaged in employability from day one. Too often students leave it until their final year to focus on what lies beyond university and opportunities to gain valuable work experience and skills are overlooked. In today’s graduate world of work it is not enough to keep up with your competitors, but to stay ahead and stand out.

In this blog, Tom shares his experience of delivering the message – “It’s never too early, but it can be too late to focus on employability!”

“The mission, should I have chosen to accept it (which I did), was not quite impossible but certainly a challenge. It was to convince first year undergraduates during their ‘welcome week’ to sign up for a range of initiatives and ideas put forward by the Employability and Careers team to give students exposure to certain skills, experience and workshops in the hope that they would become more employable. This was all designed to be in line with the ‘vision’ for the Essex graduate, which is that they are seen to be:
• creative
• a global citizen
• enterprising and ready for the world of work
• a lifelong learner

So did it work? Well we had a fantastic turn out, with 1200 students attending the workshops over the three days. The students were very engaged with the message and really keen to sign up for the major initiative called the “Big Essex Award” (which is like a Duke of Edinburgh Award of employability).

I had a great time presenting and really enjoyed the opportunity to meet all that fresh-faced potential. The only thing which did slightly depress me was the continuing thought in the back of my mind which was – “I wish they had done this sort of thing when I was a student” – but in those days university was free, beer was cheap and jobs were easy to come by!”

Switching onto employability and building a portfolio of skills and experiences whilst at university is a sure fire way of making sure you are ahead of the game when it comes to applying for those precious graduate jobs but as someone whose uni days are far behind them, I think there is still something to learn from Tom’s experience at Essex. To be creative, a global citizen, enterprising and a lifelong learner is something we could all aspire to not matter how young or old we are… perhaps indeed The Only Way Is…

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