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How Students’ Unions are championing future employability

In our last blog, we explored how students are turning their focus to their future careers as early as first year. Meanwhile, Students’ Unions are supporting students of all age groups with a range of innovative measures as they embark on their journeys towards postgraduate employability. Here are just a few of them.

Formalised employability teaching

At present, it’s tempting to view employability and academia as two separate entities. But a truly innovative university experience combines the two into one. At Coventry University, for example, students can embark on 22 different University-accredited “Add+vantage modules” – specific career-building courses that are taught by the university’s employability team. 

These modules place career-building initiatives right at the heart of academic study – students gain credits towards their degree for studying them. It brings the worlds of SU involvement and academic study closer together, making former “extra-curricular” activities a core part of the curriculum. 

At Coventry, students can gain British Sign Language accreditations and building their communication skills to helping them to secure placements in schools and the community. Coventry University also accredits involvement in clubs, societies and SU placements as part of this programme. Students recieve digital badges as a tangible record of their work – these can be displayed in CVs, on LinkedIn and in email signatures. Experts have suggested that as long as it’s clear why a badge is being awarded, and what it relates to, this model works really well in student communities. 

This integrated approach to career-building and traditional university learning is a way of instilling confidence in students from their early years of study. It creates a strong foundation for them to springboard into the world of work.

Accrediting society involvement

As well as being a fulfilling aspect of life, society involvement is – as we know – a huge career-building opportunity (as well as a whole bunch of fun). Students get the chance to collaborate with peers, make decisions about the direction of a small organisation under the safety of a SU, and assume leadership positions. 

Taking on a leadership role within a society is one of the more effective ways of improving employability – as reported by students themselves. The Sutton Trust found that while 43% of those who took part in student societies felt it had developed their leadership skills, less than a third (29%) who did a work experience placement said the same. Society involvement also had a positive impact on the communication skills of 62% of students, and the resilience of 53%. 

It’s one thing to benefit from society involvement – but another thing entirely to articulate this in a job interview or cover letter. To help with this, many SUs are now looking to accredit society involvement, giving students a tangible way to record and champion their leadership roles. 

Some have created specific awards ceremonies that recognise exemplary leadership and volunteer contributions. Others, such as Coventry SU,  have offered “badges” – virtual signifiers of being involved in a Students’ Union society. Societies geared towards a specific career track also create peer support networks, improving access to competitive professions – such as Arts SU’s Advertising Society and Future Marketers Society, as well as Students’ Union UCL’s Economics and Finance Society (to name just a few). 

As well as providing black-and-white accreditation for the time and effort students put into society work, these initiatives are great at building confidence in students – vital for that post-graduate employment cycle.


Fostering business acumen

Employment can take many forms – many students are aware, from the offset, that working for someone else isn’t for them. native’s own research shows that 9% of students have their own business or side-hustle before they’ve even graduated. While a small subset of the student body, these future entrepreneurs need their own career support. 

This has been brought to life particularly well by Queen’s Belfast Students’ Union, which has an active SU Enterprise division. Students can book a business 1-2-1 to sense-check their entrepreneurial ideas, as well as attend events or take part in competitions to facilitate business growth. A similar initiative is in place at Loughborough Students’ Union.

By acknowledging that not every student will seek employment in an existing organisation, these Students’ Unions have created an employability offering that caters to everyone’s needs. Even if students don’t go down the founder route upon graduation, the skills gained from  enterprise competitions will still stay with them as they navigate the world of work. 

Of course, there’s a huge elephant in the room that we’ve not talked about- part-time jobs and employability. We’ll be saving that topic for a future blog, so stay tuned.

We’d love to talk more about how your Students’ Union is currently prioritising employability – and discuss how native can help. Book a chat with us today.