In 2020 the Faculty Careers Liaison (a staff member from our Division) performed a focus group with teaching staff, current students (undergraduates and post-graduates) as well as alumni to identify a menu of careers provision already in use across Faculty; an account of key challenges faced by departments and perceived gaps in provision; and a number of ideas for new provision and strategy that might be attempted at Department and Faculty level. This consultation was very important for informing our ongoing careers strategy.
Applied Medical Sciences, which constitutes the majority of our department’s undergraduates, instituted in 2018 a dedicated Deputy Programme Director to focus on this student cycle (who also contributes to AMS Nutrition). As formal UCL Student Exit Interviews had very poor uptake, she initiated a bespoke Destinations Database and made it her mission to keep track of as many of our graduates as possible, leveraging the good personal relationships that our teaching staff had fostered. This ongoing analysis allows us to focus our curriculum towards supporting the most popular careers. As just one example of many, when the course began in 2014, Graduate Medicine was not even envisaged as a possible destination. However, when it became clear that these options were amongst the most pursued, we set about to create a new module aimed at students interested in practicing medicine as a career, and made sure to put on extra events tailored to them, such as workshops about the MBBS application and interview process. This database is also being used to interrogate the effect of ethnicity on career success; our 2021 analysis showed that ethnic minorities were performing as well as their White counterparts in securing graduate roles.
Careers Events and Portal
Our Division works very closely with UCL Careers to put on a variety of bespoke events tailored for our undergraduates, including employability transferable skills (CVs, interviews) and sector-specific information, which are timetabled for each year group to encourage uptake. In addition, to help navigate the often bewilderingly wide array of careers events available centrally, in 2020 we created a portal on Moodle, the Virtual Learning Environment, through which different year groups could view a curated selection of events and activities appropriate for that year.
Moreover, after hearing from student feedback that their most preferred voice for career advice were alumni, in 2020 we initiated, in collaboration with UCL Careers, a very popular monthly Alumni Insights webinar series, in which a panel of alumni from particular destinations (e.g. Masters, PhD, Medicine, Science Publishing, Public Health) would advise current students about what the careers were really like and give tips on how to get into those sectors. Indeed, we found that these sessions attended 5-10 times more attendees (including both our undergraduates and PGT students) than the timetabled bespoke events with UCL careers; these are also recorded for wider access.
Year 3 Professional placement module
In AMS Year 3, we offer an optional module where students can spend 4 weeks in an employment or volunteer sector anywhere in the world. This module allows students from all backgrounds to experience highly valued, real-world internships within the framework of an assessed module. The main aim of the module is to enhance the students’ soft skills repertoire and consequently their employability. We know that several students on this module have received offers of employment from their placement supervisors in diverse areas such as pharma consultancy, laboratory management and financial services. This module has a levelling-up role within the programme as it supports students in attaining meaningful professional experience, thereby addressing a situation where such opportunities tend to be limited to those from more privileged socioeconomic backgrounds with pre-existing business or familial connections.
Portable online student Portfolios are being seen as increasingly compelling ways to set graduates apart in the difficult post-COVID employment environment. In 2018 we co-created a portfolio project within an extended focus group of interested students who saw the portfolio as an essential tool towards their development and future career prospects. As part of its overall development, a prototype blog assessment implemented in one of the AMS modules received excellent student feedback, with comments about how the work was more creative and helped them understand how to communicate better with the wider world. We recently received grant funding to help introduce portfolios more widely as a vertical activity to our year 1 AMS students and we are aiming to roll out the same initiative in our postgraduate programmes in due course. As part of this funded project, a group of year 2 students, and one PGT student, received one-on-one time with teaching staff to create exemplar portfolios to help inspire this roll-out. To advertise the opportunities more widely amongst teaching staff, there was a Portfolio Festival in June 2021 where the students were judged by a panel of industry experts.
The Early Careers Researcher network is open to post-graduates as well as post-docs, and their events support careers issues.
Specific PGT support
At least one PGT course piloted a LinkedIn alumni group several years ago. After having recently solicited feedback from alumni, we are in the process of organising a LinkedIn alumni group for all the PG programmes, building on our earlier experiences and addressing issues that made the pilot attempt less successful than we’d hoped.