The long-term benefits for students in work placement will be highlighted at all four campuses, during this year’s University of Ulster’s annual Work Experience Week, sponsored by Henderson Group.
According to latest research figures, two thirds of potential employers say graduates without any previous experience are unlikely to find employment.
That is the stark finding from The Graduate Market in 2012, an annual review of graduate vacancies and starting salaries at Britain’s leading employers.
Seamus McConomy, Ulster’s Work Experience Development Officer, said the University was making every effort to encourage its students to take full advantage of workplace opportunities.
“The Career Development Centre provides a University-wide resource for the promotion, support and enhancement of work placements and work experience,” he explained.
“Through Work Experience Week, which begins on February 20, we can showcase all the opportunities through which students can build their employability.
“These include full-time, holiday, voluntary, short-time and part-time employment and research at Ulster shows that, on average, work placement results in a higher degree classification.
“A full programme of events and activities across all campuses is being organised to put our students in contact with potential placement providers and to support personal and professional development.
“Among the events planned are presentations and workshops for student engagement with voluntary work, holiday work and international exchange activities.
“Students will also get a chance to speak to representatives from SMEs and social enterprises to discuss new models of part-time and short-time work experience.”
Claire Scullion, a BSc Hons Communications, Advertising and Marketing student, is spending a year on work placement in the Marketing and PR Department at Henderson Group.
The family-owned organisation owns SPAR, EUROSPAR, VIVO and VIVOXTRA franchises in Northern Ireland and has been distributing food and grocery-related products to the convenience retail sector for over 100 years.
Claire says her experience with the company will leave her better equipped to begin a career, as it is helping to build confidence and is encouraging her to use her own initiative.
“The staff ensure that I’m involved in a number of different projects which opens up all areas of the industry. This has widened my knowledge and helped me form a clearer view of how I would like to develop my career,” she explained.
“Even as a placement student I feel like a valued member of the team as I am given my own projects to work on and lots of responsibilities.
“This has really helped with my confidence and as I’ve been using my own initiative I now feel a lot more equipped for the time when I head out into the working world after graduation.”
Work Experience Week coincides with both National Student Employment Week and Student Volunteering Week.
Nicole O’Connor, who is studying for a BA Hons in Irish Language and Literature Studies at Ulster, has been involved in volunteer work since September 2009 and is a Youth Ambassador for Volunteer Now.
She helps out at the Rock youth club in east Belfast, the Acorn Club in south Belfast, which works with children who have learning difficulties and volunteers with the University’s Coleraine Gaelic and Camogie teams.
“For my volunteering roles I need to have a positive attitude and patience at all times, especially when working with children – and a sense of humour is also a big plus,” said Nicole.
“My organisational and communication skills are developing immensely from volunteering at the University, which is great because these skills are transferable into other aspects of my life.
“Volunteering offers so many opportunities and is one of the best and easiest ways of gaining valuable experience, learning new skills and improving self-confidence.”
Wendy Osborne OBE, Chief Executive, Volunteer Now added: “With more than one in five young people in Northern Ireland currently unemployed, volunteering presents a win-win scenario for young people and the community.
“Volunteers do something positive, make a difference and, in return, gain experience and transferrable skills demanded by employers, which may well give them the edge on an application form and in an interview situation.”
For more information on Work Experience Week, visit http://careers.ulster.ac.uk/WEweek
Caption: Claire Scullion (Right) with Omagh Harrier Stevie Duncan and model Rachel McCartan at the recent launch of the SPAR Omagh Half Marathon