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e3i Projects 08/09

Exploring Student Perspectives On The Employability Aspects Of Their Courses

This year e3i invited colleagues to bid for funds to support small scale projects focusing on student perspectives on the employability aspects of their courses. There was considerable interest in this initiative and in the end it was possible to support 18 projects, with all Faculties having colleagues involved. The criteria for deciding upon projects emphasised the student voice and student input, both in relation to the investigation process and the outcomes, as well as the potential for course developments arising from the investigations.

Although there is a large amount of research and evaluation of both employer and educational institutions’ perspectives on employability, there is a relative dearth of information on student perspectives. The aim of this initiative is to make a contribution in this area, foster a greater understanding of this within SHU, generate findings that will inform course development and disseminate these more broadly across the HE sector. The projects are due to be completed within the academic year, and a summary of the key outputs and findings will be made available via the web site in due course.

Below you will find project summaries arranged by year or Faculty.

Please see below for projects funded and supported by the e3i CETL in the academic year 2006/2007.

Project: Rotherham Ready
Lead: Sheila Quairney
Brief Description: Rotherham Ready is a large scale, high profile Yorkshire Forward funded project that is running until 2009 across the Rotherham borough. It is being run in conjunction with local employers and all local schools and colleges are taking part.
It aims to create a culture of enterprise within the education framework.

Project: Placement Induction Block Week
Lead: Ian Jones
Brief Description: This CETL project aims to simulate a number of work place activities in a time constrained exercise designed to alert students to many of the demands and expectations of placement student employers

Project: Employability and Non-Traditional, Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Learners
Lead: Rebecca Strachan
Brief Description: This CETL project aims to recommend ways to support CPD learners through their personal "journey". This needs to be done by embedding support for employability and PDP (Personal Development Portfolio) into the whole course. At
present these things exist but they need “joining up”. Learners’ perceptions will also be investigated before further
development takes place.

Project: Work Placement Opportunities
Lead: Katherine Gardiner
Brief Description: Firstly to work out what kind of placement/ attachment would best fit within the confines of a twelve month programme; and secondly to get this system in place at the same time as the course is re-validated in April 2007.

Project: PE, Sport Development & Coaching Student Conference 2007
Lead: Sarah Wenham
Brief Description: The aim of the conference was to develop an innovative learning & teaching environment with the support of industry specialists who facilitated over 50 workshops around the themes of PE, sport development, coaching & health- related physical activity.

Project: First Annual Physiotherapy Graduate/Student Conference 2007
Lead: Pauline Buttling
Brief Description: The aim of the conference was to offer graduates the chance to showcase their work and to allow them to demonstrate presentation skills, organisational skills and management skills on their CV. Also, the conference provided an opportunity for current students and staff, both internal and external, to learn about the work done by these graduates in their final year

Please see below for projects funded and supported by the e3i CETL in the academic year 2005/2006.

Project: Inter-disciplinary Autonomous Learning Resource
Lead: Nick Nunnington
Brief Description: The project builds upon an international field project for the MSc Property Appraisal and Management course which is supported by leading real estate companies including Cushman & Wakefield.

Project: The European Challenge
Lead: Nick Nunnington
Brief Description: The European Challenge is an annual project that involves 80 students from Universities all over Europe working together on a complex consultancy project.

Project: Establishing Links With Schools & Colleges
Lead: Gudrun Myers
Brief Description: The project aims to work towards the establishment of joined-up,complementary and mutually supportive employability agendas linking SHU language provision with the regional secondary school/college/specialist language college sectors

Project: Career Management Skills Teaching Pack
Lead: Kent Roach
Brief Description: The creation of a teaching pack comprising an updated module guide, tutor notes and session materials for the CMS module.

Project: Employability in Course Planning & Validation
Lead: Damien Fitzgerald
Brief Description: Understanding of how course planning teams responded to the employability framework in 2004-2005 course planning processes.

Select a Faculty:

Faculty of Arts, Computing, Engineering and Sciences (ACES)

Faculty of Development and Society (D&S)

Faculty of Health and Wellbeing (HWB)

Sheffield Business School (SBS)


Anne Nortcliffe (ACES) This project would investigate student perceptions of what they think employers want, and compare it with what employers 'really' want. By comparing the probable mismatch between these surveys, we can see where we need to target our efforts to align the two. A follow-up survey would compare the perceptions of students who have been on placement and those who have not. This would identify whether student perceptions have become more closely aligned with those of employers, leading to improved student employability. The anticipated outcome is that students become more aware of what employers see as being important and desirable employability attributes.

Dharmendra Shadija (ACES) Students from the Enterprise Systems Professional and Technical Consulting are predominantly international and they will collaborate and engage in the design and implementation of a programme of activities to gather, analyse and evaluate data pertaining to the opinions and interests of international students. One of the proposed outcomes is that we shall be able to investigate curriculum design and develop a strategy to support a process of change to help establish a better fit between the needs of employers, and learners, whilst providing a clear mandate for academic development colleagues and identifying ways in which teaching staff development can be supported at local level.

Marion Gerson (ACES) This project will run within two courses, BSc(Hons) Maths and Maths with Stats. A team of 8-10 students from level 5 will lead the project, supported by the lead tutor. The students will be volunteers and it is anticipated that this project will, for them, replace the Employability assessment element of a 2nd year module. The outcomes from the project include the production of a video on Employability for maths graduates, reports on 1st, 2nd and final year students' perceptions of how Employability is (or is not) embedded in the maths courses, and finally a presentation which includes the video and a summary of the findings.

Peter Lake (ACES) This project aims to discover students' different views of what employability means, within various Engineering and ICT courses, their perceptions of how successful their courses are at delivering related skills, and how this compares to their expectations. Following appropriate training at a Faculty-supported 'away day', key student leads will conduct focus group sessions and carry out face-to-face interviews with a selection of their colleagues. The anticipated outcomes include a summary of student views of current provision in terms of the development of employability skills, and of the gap between this and their expectations. In consultation with the academic staff team, we then anticipate the development of strategies to close this gap.

Simon Clark (ACES) The project will build on the strong employability focus already deeply embedded within the Enterprise and Technology course portfolio. It will be based around the existing e-Progress File system, but extended to include the second and placement year students. We would like to encourage the students to explicitly articulate how they develop their skill set while engaged in a work based learning opportunity (typically a formal 48 week industrial training placement). Through an increased awareness of student perceptions of the PDP process, and its role in the development of key employability skills, we intend to further develop the system, improving its effectiveness. We also anticipate that this will lead to increased student participation in the placement process.

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Colleen Smith (D&S) I propose to use some of the data I already have and gather further evidence from the methods described below, to ascertain students' perceptions of employability, specifically how the 'reflective' component in 'clinical' modules affects the students' perception of 'employability'. The process will involve the completion by the students of a questionnaire which is anticipated will elicit their views on how their modules deliver or aim to succeed in delivering aspects of employability. It is envisaged that if tools can be developed to further enhance student reflection this can be embedded into curriculum design, which can then be utilised by all other law modules and indeed can be adapted to be used in other modules in the Faculty.

John Grant (D&S) We will be raising a dialogue with students in both years of the Real Estate HND and the transferring students in year two of the Business Property Management degree and the third year of the Property Studies (top up) degree. The focus of the research being to gather student views in respect of employability prospects for graduates. However, we believe that the research will provide valuable insights into the student experience beyond this focus. The restructuring of modules and improvement of the delivery style will enhance and improve awareness of the opportunities offered by the course to students.

Shawna McCoy (D&S) In order to enhance the awareness and development of our students understanding of and engagement with 'social enterprise' and the Employability aspects within the academic discipline of Criminology, the Criminology and Community Justice Subject Group, in cooperation with the Enterprise Centre, want to engage students with the Venture Matrix currently operating within other areas across the University. The purpose of this project is to 'pilot' the Venture Matrix in a way that is supportive to students by providing 'real' opportunities to identify and enhance their knowledge and skills relating to employability, while at the same time allowing the Subject Group to engage in a 'forward thinking' approach to course development.

Tom Rutter (D&S) The project would be carried out by students on the BA English Studies degree within the context of the Developing & Applying Public Relations Skills module. As part of the rationale for the module, students in small groups are ‘responsible for market research, publicising and organising events for specific clients, and for producing a range of texts to support these activities. Students would conduct an analysis of the impact of work-based learning on past students’ employability and job experiences. Also, current BA English students would be surveyed/interviewed in the light of the findings from this and their experiences and expectations regarding employability and work-based learning noted.

Craig Patterson (D&S) This project involves all students who study criminology, law, sociology, politics, history and psychology. The project will involve an evaluation of students' views on the integration of work-based learning into the undergraduate degree. The project will look at issues related to work-study balance, the organisation and delivery of work-based learning, and the perceived value of employability to individual students. The findings of the evaluation will help ensure that future relationships with South Yorkshire Police and other criminal justice agencies are constructed in a way that enhances the overall student experience through the creation of relevant student support mechanisms.

Andrew Jobling (D&S) The project aims to consult geography students at SHU with a view to engaging them in the process of enhancing the employability aspects of their courses. It is particularly concerned with how to most effectively embed employability within a discipline that, while of relevance to a wide range of possible future careers, is not immediately vocational. The project hopes to enhance the employability aspects of Geography courses at SHU, hence enhancing students' career perspectives, as well as helping to ensure staff efforts to develop the employability agenda within Geography are congruent with student attitudes and expectations. Furthermore, the project hopes to ensure the appropriate and effective embedding of employability into the geography curriculum.

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Heather Wilkins (HWB) This project has a clear methodology engaging students in differing ways. The methodology involves the development and refinement of a self-assessment tool where students would be asked to audit their skill development in the 3 elements within the employability framework at 3 points – 2 whilst on the programme and the third after qualification. One student will be supported to work with the proposal team in order to value their input and expertise and develop research skills. Primarily, it is envisaged that practical suggestions will emerge from the evaluation of the 3 elements and their associated strategies, which will feed directly into the curriculum to enhance the employability of qualifying midwives.

Melissa Jacobi (HWB) Students would be central to the project, primarily through their participation in the evaluation of experiences and perceptions of the Skills Passport and PPDP activities. The fundamental aim of the project is to evaluate student opinion on this key employability process to aid development of it for future years. Secondly we are looking to employ a student to facilitate the evaluation process. They would be responsible for data collection and collation of results under the guidance of academic staff. The outcome of the project will be a tangible set of results reflecting the perceptions of level 4 students on the UG Sport Portfolio in relation to the PPDP and Skills Passport process.

Jane Foggin (HWB) The BA (Hons) in Social Work Studies course scores highly in national league tables in respect of students finding employment very quickly after completion of the course. In order to build on this evidence of success, the subject group is keen to investigate what sorts of activities students consider the most effective in helping them achieve employment. A proposed outcome is the feedback of findings into ongoing course review, design and LTA activities in order to embed employability strategies and develop strategies for raising student awareness of those "added value" attributes the BA SWS equips them with, and how to transfer these to the jobs market.

Robert Wilson (HWB) This is a student project. A final year undergraduate student will undertake the project (it will form their UG Final Year Dissertation), complete the research and disseminate the findings at a subject group level. The research sample will be based on the following groups: Employers of graduates, Final year sport management/ sport and leisure management students, Sport management/sport and leisure management Alumni and Student Union representatives. This project will provide research based evidence that can be used for the future development of Sport Management related educational curriculum. Furthermore it will establish the skills and attributes required for graduates to be employable in the Sport and Leisure sector and produce a ‘skills barometer’ to help inform students about the skills required for specific industry related jobs.

Melanie Bryer & Pam Holland (HWB) This project has the title of "gaining employment through effective interview skills". We have begun to develop a range of electronic resources this year to assist our future graduates gain more expertise in making applications for relevant posts that ends in successful short listing and also to increase final year students' confidence and skills when being interviewed. We envisage that the resources developed in 2008/09 will add to these initial resources and provide a greater variety of scenarios and advice for the future. We also want students to explore how they can use their University inter-professional experiences effectively when answering interview questions that involve a multi-disciplinary focus as this is becoming more common in interviews especially within an NHS environment.

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Emma Martin (SBS, Formerly Faculty of Organisation and Management) The project will be hoping to actively involve as many students as possible in research, so that we can be sure that we can explore as broad a range as possible of student perspectives on employability in the faculty. The project will begin by recruiting students to undertake research into the employability aspects of their courses. The students will be involved in the project as both research subjects and researchers themselves. Students will be recruited from the Sheffield Business School, from both the third year of the undergraduate courses and the post graduate courses. One of the proposed outcomes of the project is that information will be available to develop a resource bank available through Blackboard.

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