Undergraduates in the School of Biosciences at the University of Nottingham can take a range of degrees from Agriculture, Food Science, Nutrition, Biotechnology and Microbiology. The starting point for the HEA Student Employability Consultant project was varying levels of engagement by students with the Careers & Employability Services and schemes such as a year in industry and the Nottingham Advantage Award (a university award to recognise extracurricular activity).
For some undergraduate courses a year in industry is well embedded and students regularly hear from their peers about the scheme. Further communication about the benefits of a year in industry has arisen from a group of students who have been blogging about their experiences on a professional body website. The School of Biosciences took part in a pilot project to map competences from a year in industry with professional standards of Registered Scientist by the Science Council. Details of this pilot project were recently presented at the annual ASET placements conference.
A new employability module is being introduced to second year students in 2015-2016 and the School of Biosciences were keen to engage students in the module in terms of what the module should contain and generate engagement, interest and a buzz around the module. From April to June 2015, nine first year students were recruited as Student Employability Consultants. The students were paid through a grant from the HEA. This report describes how the students were recruited, presents their findings, identifies values of the project work to the students and the university, and identifies some key learning points for other institutions also keen to engage students with the employability agenda.