Sheffield Hallam University: Why we are investing in the Class of 2021

Helping graduates stand out to an employer in a post-pandemic world

We know that for many students, it is hard to see past their final year of study… to think of a time past the online lectures, seminars and dissertation deadlines when they will take those all-important next steps in their career.

Recent data, released by the Office for National Statistics, outlines just how much of an impact the pandemic has had on those graduating during the pandemic. Many have been forced into taking any job rather than fully utilising their skills in a graduate level role.

…three-and-a-half years after leaving university, graduates who attended private schools earn 17% more per year, on average, than those who attended state schools

Underemployment poses a threat to students who want to capitalise on the skills and knowledge they have acquired at university.

This is particularly the case for those from less privileged backgrounds.

Research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies has shown that, three-and-a-half years after leaving university, graduates who attended private schools earn 17% more per year, on average, than those who attended state schools.

Equal opportunities for all

At Sheffield Hallam, we are committed to equal opportunity for all and wanted to ensure specific groups were given additional support to support their transition to further study or highly skilled employability.

That is why we launched our Class of 2020 offer last year in response to the economic uncertainty of Covid-19.

One year on, we wanted to enhance a comprehensive programme in recognition of unprecedented impact on graduate labour market and a very different learning experience for graduates during their degree programme.

The Class of 2021 is designed in such a way that different components reach students when they need it.

This builds on the support framework we already have in place at Sheffield Hallam University, including the student support triangle, where all students are allocated their own student support, academic and employment adviser to help them all the way through the university career.

This month, students will be able to access an online ‘Next Steps’ tool providing tailored feedback to boost levels of confidence in their wellbeing, academic and personal development and graduate readiness. This is complemented by their academic adviser who can offer personalised advice on what step they should take next on their career path.

This may be postgraduate study, offered at a discount for our graduates, support to start their own business or we can refer students to a Digital Assessment Centre, run by an external company, which take students through workshops and mock interviews.

The feedback from this helps students gain a clear sense of their strengths and areas for improvement. They can then put themselves through for our Graduate Readiness Award, giving them a chance to build up any skills that require additional development and an award to prove their employability and work readiness to potential employers.

Health & wellbeing support

Wellbeing support is also a key part of the package, with students able to access TogetherAll – an online community to help them manage their health and wellbeing and one-to-one or group sessions with specially trained wellbeing practitioners.

We are also supporting 200 paid summer internships with local businesses to give our graduates that vital first foot in the door.

These are vital as internships can, in many cases, lead to a full-time role within a company.

Benedek Odor started working at Oil & Gas Corrosion as a marketing intern after finishing his International Business and French degree at Sheffield Hallam last year. Since his internship finished, he has continued working at Oil & Gas Corrosion as a marketing lead.

“The virtual internship was such an invaluable experience during a very uncertain time. It would not have been possible without the help of the university and the connections it has with local businesses,” he said.

The benefits extend further than just giving students their first step on the career ladder.

“Each intern brings a unique skillset to help us with our projects and, perhaps most importantly for our small team, a unique personality,” says Brad Healey, process engineer and team lead at Oil and Gas Corrosion who joined the company as an intern himself in 2019.

This builds on the success of our GROW Mentoring programme which we piloted and rolled out late last year.

Working with the Northern Powerhouse Partnership and schools in South Yorkshire, the programme offers graduates entering employment the opportunity to develop important skills in mentoring and coaching others, and to be accredited for this work.

In doing so, the mentoring they provide helps year 10, year 11, and year 13 pupils through a particularly important time in their lives, made more challenging by the pandemic.

One of the graduate mentors from the pilot programme, Abby Wensley, worked with pupils at XP School in Doncaster. She has now secured a job as a teaching assistant at a secondary school in Rotherham.

The graduates of 2020 and 2021 can make a difference in a post-pandemic world. We need to make sure they stand out to employers and thrive in their future careers.

Conor Moss is the group director and dean of work-based learning at Sheffield Hallam University

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