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Employability is Key for Ulster Business Graduates

6 May 2010

Students have been acquiring the skills needed to compete in today’s dynamic business environment at an employability conference hosted by the Ulster Business School at Coleraine.Organised by the Department of Business, Retail and Financial Services, the event aimed to equip students from first year through to postgraduate level with the expertise to succeed in the current economic climate.

Students were also given the opportunity to showcase their own work through poster presentations to potential employers.  A team of first year Business with Retail Studies students won first prize for their project on visual merchandising. The group investigated how retailers use merchandising to entice customers to increase spending in-store.Ulster Finance lecturer Claire McCann, who organised the conference, said: “This  event highlighted the essential skills such as self reliance, creative problem-solving, time management and adaptability that will be required of business graduates to succeed over the next few years.

“The conference focused not just on final year students but also first and second year students who need to think about their employability now. The key message to students is they need to  focus at an early stage on how the skills they develop during their time at university will help them in their future career”.The event attracted employers from a range of sectors, including retail, financial services, business consultancy services and training and included keynote talks by speakers from Citigroup and BDO Northern Ireland.

John Healey, Managing Director of Citigroup for Northern Ireland said:  "This was a great conference that provided the attendees with the opportunity to ask large employers such as Citi what it is all about when starting a career in today's economy."Nicola Shaw, HR Manager at BDO Northern Ireland added: “In the current competitive labour market it is important that students are aware that a good degree classification alone is not sufficient to secure employment; this needs to be balanced with effective communication skills. Therefore BDO was delighted to be asked to speak at the employability conference, so that students from first year onwards are aware that they need to be able to demonstrate effective interpersonal skills to a potential employer.”

The event grew out of Ulster’s EDORT pilot initiative, supported by the University’s Career Development Centre.  As part of the initiative, the Department put in place an action plan to place further emphasis in its programmes’ first year on career opportunities and necessary graduate skills. The action plan included a series of talks by employers and industry representatives including Marks and Spencer, Firmus Energy, Royal Sun Alliance, BDO, Chartered Insurance Institute and Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association.Professor Barry Quinn, Head of Department of Business, Retail and Financial Services, said: “We want to see students achieve added value from their programmes and we view this initiative as another way to emphasize to students the importance of skills development as they progress through their degree programme, from first year onwards. The Department is really appreciative of the help provided to us by the employers in this key initiative and to Business in the Community for facilitating employer involvement.”