Coventry University came out on top in the best employability initiative category at the Guardian university awards, for its innovative Social Engagement for Employability Development (SEED) project.
The annual Guardian awards act as a benchmark for the higher education sector and offer universities a seal of approval for their most outstanding work.
Coventry University’s award winning SEED project, set up and administered by the UK work experience team within its Centre for Global Engagement (CGE), was launched in 2013 to help international students boost their employability skills.
In common with others across the country, the university runs dedicated placement schemes for its home and EU students. Last year, the university’s Centre for Global Engagement helped over 3,000 students from all disciplines study or work abroad and its efforts were recognised with the European Association for International Education’s (EAIE) 2014 award for innovation in internationalisation.
But until recently international students at the university who were equally keen to gain work experience in the UK were experiencing difficulty in securing placements for a number of reasons. Barriers to success included the differences in working customs, lack of market knowledge amongst international students and the level of competition faced from home based students.
The university was determined to address the problem and targeted the public and not-for-profit sector. Working with public bodies such as West Midlands Police and the NHS and charity groups Save the Children and The Red Cross, they identified specific attributes which their international students could contribute to.
These bodies are heavily involved in community projects and outreach work with diverse social groups so they are particularly keen to draw on the different cultural outlook and linguistic abilities of the university’s international students.
Now firmly established, the university’s UK work experience team provides an employability and placement service dedicated to international students from some 130 countries and since launching in 2013 around 260 students have been engaged in SEED projects.
Dr David Pilsbury, deputy vice chancellor for international development at Coventry University, said: “We’re delighted to have finished ahead of some very stiff competition from across the UK to win the best employability initiative for our SEED programme at this year’s Guardian university awards. “We offer a range of placement opportunities for our home based students but we’ve been rewarded on this occasion for what we’re doing to provide work experience for those students who come to us from overseas. “
He added: “International students bring with them a different cultural perspective and many other qualities, which we felt could be put to good use, particularly amongst public and not-for-profit organisations whose work often directly impacts on diverse populations within our local communities. Not only has the SEED initiative given our international students valuable work experience but it has delivered tangible social benefits.”