Making the leap: How Sodexo is supporting students
SPONSORED: Tracey Smith, Business Development Director, Student Living by Sodexo
Employability is an increasingly hot topic for universities. Universities are judged and ranked on successful entry of their graduates into the workplace, and for students, faced with average debts of more than £50,000, it is imperative that their course and wider university experience provides them not only with the all-important 2.1 or first, but with the skills, aptitude and experience that will ensure they make a successful first step onto the career ladder.
In our 2017 Global University Lifestyle Survey we found that UK students are less clear on their future career path than their global contemporaries, with only 46 per cent stating they knew what job they want to do following graduation, compared to 60 per cent in China and 54 per cent in Spain and the US. Three quarters of UK students were aware of their university careers service but had never used them, and only 21 per cent had completed an internship, compared to 67 per cent in China, 56 per cent in Spain and 34% in Italy.
As the world’s 19th largest employer, and with a vast range of career paths across sectors as diverse as justice and prisons to hospitality and leisure, Sodexo has a wealth of employer insight and experience that we can share with students. And as a strategic partner to universities, we see ‘employability skills’ as a key area on which we can support students as part of our breadth of quality of life services.
“This type of experience is incredibly important for our students. The event provided the students with a great mix of practical advice and personal stories. This really resonated with the students and gave them each some clear action points to take away” – Kevin Rummun, Employer Liaison Coordinator, University of Greenwich
We are doing this in several ways. We recently ran an employability event for 30 students from the University of Greenwich, designed to give students insight into what employers are looking for and advice on being ‘employment-ready’. During the sessions, members of our management team, including myself and our chief executive Paul Anstey, shared our experience and career path, whilst our recruitment team shared all important information about CV and interview preparation and the power of social media as a recruitment tool. Through interactive workshops, we explored the importance of personal brand – defining your personal unique selling points – and building networks to help you grow your experience, find valuable mentors and get your ‘foot in the door’.
In addition to employability days, we run Student Board of Directors, a programme through which we take on a group of student ‘directors’ each year, setting them a paid assignment to help us tackle a real-life business challenge and tasking them to deliver a solution. The programme gives students valuable work experience, mentoring and training in presentation skills, social media and report writing, as well as helping us get closer to our core customer and building valuable insight. For example, one of the food ‘offers’ we serve at several of our university contracts, a gourmet soup brand, was developed by a group of our student directors.
“I found the experience quite refreshing and beneficial. The presenters were very candid and honest with us, not just about the way to navigate our future careers, but also their experiences and life in general. I left the place quite optimistic and would recommend future students to take part in such an opportunity” – Ummi Arbi, BA Politics and International Relations, University of Greenwich
Finally, our on-the-ground teams regularly support their client’s employability teams and student population with skills days, workshops and CV training. In the last couple of months alone our chefs have supported food studies and hospitality students at Perth College with their annual craft skills week, and Sodexo’s head of Hard FM, Mike Grimmel has addressed a group of Construction Management students at Greenwich.
“The Sodexo Employability Day was an eye-opening experience that profoundly impacted me. It has already helped to shape my academic and professional outlook. The interactive session helped me to understand what big companies look for in a potential candidate. I learnt how to use the experience, competencies, and knowledge that I continue to gain. The day helped me to understand that motivation, resilience, courage and insight are key tenets in building a stand-out personal brand” – Tafara P. Mukurumbira, LLB (Hons) Undergraduate, University of Greenwich
In our Student Living and wider universities business, we are focused on delivering services that support the full lifecycle of the student journey, from pre-arrival, to departure and entry into the workplace, thinking about how we can improve quality of life at every stage. Our employability schemes are a great example about how we can use our knowledge and network to do this, providing tangible and practical benefits to our clients and their student populations.