Are You a Champion of Employability?

The NUE Awards 2018 saw the University of Leeds Engineering, Physics and Mathematics employability teams claim two trophies as they won both the Best Placement Service (Over 100 Placements) and the Most Improved Commitment to Employability Award.

Emily Timson, Employability Manager at the University of Leeds talked to us about the importance of rewarding her team for everything they do to support and inspire students in taking the first step in their careers.

Why did you enter the awards?

I wanted to enter both teams as they have made huge achievements with the respective resources within the different environments in which they operate.

The Engineering and Computing Employability Team have an incredibly broad offering of employability initiatives that have been developed and refined over five years, however work experience is at the heart of the service. Entering the Best Placement Service was important to confirm what the teams have been doing is awesome!

Our Physical Sciences Faculty Employability Team work with students from less vocational degrees and the service is much newer, however we have still managed to make huge strides in such a short space of time. Entering the Most Improved Commitment Award was important to do to acknowledge that improvements are relative to the service provision and incremental changes are just as important as significant investment and growth.

Don't assume you need to be the team with the largest number of staff or successfully placing the most amount of students - don't get me wrong evidence of impact is key when entering however it is more than just a numbers game.

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What inspired you to put your team forward?

Because they are amazing! The motivation of past and present staff in the team to deliver the best possible service to students has been phenomenal. We are a team which has always set very high standards and continues to have big ambitions.

As a manager of the service it is really important to me that the teams efforts are recognised not only within the institution but at a national level – and the NUE awards do this.

How did you find the nomination process?

Nominating is always crazy. I am number crunching, looking at impact, reflecting on how we have improved from previous years, trying to meet that word count, all whilst trying to be creative!

Can you tell us about your experience of the NUE Awards…  

We nearly missed them due to train problems. (Prosecco kept us going but we had to dash across London!)

I’ve been fortunate to attend the awards either as a finalist or representing ASET for a few years, and it is always guaranteed to be fun. It’s great to relax, have a day out with the team and network with colleagues from other institutions, employers who recruit our students and of course our students to celebrate everyone’s achievements.

It is so important for universities because the NUE awards highlight the very best in the sector, why would you not want to be part of that?!

How has winning impacted your team?

It is great to have the hard work that the team put in each year recognised nationally.

We have a huge service to manage in the Faculty of Engineering, we are constantly dealing with high volumes and a variety of initiatives which means it's fast paced and we don’t often take a moment to step back and appreciate all of the hard work and results we get. This is exactly why the NUE Awards mean so much. 

For Physical Sciences it has raised the profile of the work we do and perfectly showcases the importance of work experience in less vocational subjects.

Colleagues who support our work, but may not appreciate the standard of our work can now see this through the awards we’ve won. Highlighting our work as sector leading and sharing the news with colleagues really highlights the importance of the work we do.

Why is it important for universities to enter the Awards?

It incredibly important for prospective students to know they will be supported with enhancing their employment prospects and employability when they arrive with us, and we use our awards as evidence of this on open days. 

There is nothing better than talking about all of the employability initiatives we run and being able to say, “we’ve won awards for our work!” It’s great, and whether those students join us or not, hopefully they are more convinced of the importance of work experience when they start university.

Any words of wisdom for those teams deliberating on whether they should enter...

Be honest and focus on USPs. We all have a fairly similar offering, and as a sector we are excellent at sharing best practice, but I think highlighting why a specific initiative was important in your entry and what the impact was is vital.

Impact doesn’t mean high numbers, and don’t assume only those with the biggest resources will win, it’s not true! We are proof that there is space for all shapes and sizes of teams!  

Emily is a great example of someone who seized the opportunity to shout about the impact her team is having on the employability of students at her university.

No matter how big or small your team, the work you do should not go unnoticed.

Take a leaf out of Emily’s book and get the recognition you deserve by entering the National Undergraduate Employability Awards 2019. 

You can find out which award is best for you and how to nominate by visiting the website.