WORKING WONDERS FOR DISADVANTAGED STUDENTS

Issue date: 24 November 2003


ISSUE DATE: 24/11/03

Getting a taste of high-quality work experience can make all the difference to students seeking to make the transition from studying to a graduate-level career. A successful scheme run by the University of the West of England is helping growing numbers of students by finding relevant work experience for them with local big-name employers.

UWE’s scheme - called the Employability and Diversity Project - has just been recognised as an example of best practice by the government’s Learning and Skills Council.

Run by the Careers Development Unit, the scheme links well-established Bristol employers with students studying subjects such as law, finance and business who for a variety of reasons may not have had personal or family experience of this kind of work.

Examples of employers are the Bristol Evening Post newspaper group, who will be taking on a disabled student, and solicitors Veale Wasbrough.

The work experience period is short – usually around a week – but ensures that students who may only have previous casual work experience take part in the core business of these companies, shadowing graduate employees and managers.

The project is targeted at students from groups where there is not a strong tradition of participation in higher education such as students of ethnic minority origin and students with disabilities. Among the benefits they receive are increased confidence, a better awareness of the employment environment they are hoping to enter, and an appreciation of how their study skills can be applied at work.

Co-ordinating the Employability and Diversity Project is Careers Development Adviser Maggie Westgarth, who says:

“The careers of some groups of graduates don’t take off in terms of salary or level of work, and national research has showed that the most valuable assistance they can get is high-quality relevant work experience.”

“The scheme can literally be life-changing for those involved, and students are really enthusiastic about taking part. Funding for the scheme has been provided by the regional Information Advice and Guidance Partnership (IAG) which links all local providers of careers advice such as universities, colleges and the Connexions service.”

The scheme is growing rapidly in size, with around eighteen big-name employers now offering work placements to second or third year students. Sarah Bishop of Veale Wasbrough said:

"As a leading firm in the region, Veale Wasbrough plays an active role in the local community and was therefore keen to support UWE in this valuable scheme. As a business we have a strong commitment to the training and development of all our people and to promoting graduate development.

“As part of the scheme we were able to provide students with a high quality work placement in the highly competitive legal market. During the placement students were given first hand experience of a dynamic business environment, which helps to increase their awareness of the legal sector and also provides a greater understanding of the realities of business today. This experience can help boost a student's confidence and can assist them in the development of their future careers."

-ENDS-

Editor’s notes

1. For more information on the Employability and Diversity Project contact UWE Careers Development Unit, tel: 0117 328 2570 or email: Careers@uwe.ac.uk

2. The Employability and Diversity Project appears as Case Study 7 in the Working Together – Information, Advice and Guidance, published by the Learning and Skills Council. August 200 MISC/0686/03 ISBN www.lcs.gov.uk

Jpeg visual available upon request from the Press Office.

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