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A year of activities and success for our Careers & Enterprise team

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Our Careers & Enterprise team offers a wide range of resources, services, and opportunities to support students to achieve their career, or entrepreneurial ambitions. This year, we were able to implement a number of innovative and new ideas in how we offer our services with great success. With the end of term quickly approaching, we look back at the activities and achievements of the service. 

Work-based learning success

We realise that work experience is crucial for providing students with the opportunity to gain experience in the workplace, to develop their skills and prepare for their future career. This year, our efforts in promoting work experiences have been recognised, as we received the Forage Award for work-based learning, ranking 9th on Forage’s list of top universities.  The success of our Sustainable Development Internships was also acknowledged, as we received the County Durham Environment Award in the Greener Business category. Many of our internship programmes continue this year, including our Social Enterprise Live Project (SELP), and Infinity: Internship Programme for Autistic Students.

We received positive feedback from employers and students who had participated in our work-based learning programmes. One employer who participated in the SELP programme said:

"Both the staff at Durham University and the interns themselves are nothing short of a pleasure to work with and very approachable."

We’re also pleased to be launching the Aspire, Evolve, Advance Internship programme, providing summer internship opportunities to widening participation students.

Targeted careers week proves popular with students

Careers fairs are an important part of Careers & Enterprise activity. This year, we hosted in-person events again, and whilst we brought careers fairs back onto campus, the experience of the pandemic and feedback from students also made us realise the benefits of hosting online events. This year saw the introduction of a new hybrid format of student engagement – Targeted careers weeks. Hosted throughout Michaelmas and Epiphany terms, each week featured a particular career sector, with a series of in-person and online events and skills sessions hosted by the service and employers. There was also an in-person careers fair for most of the sector weeks. We also created a dedicated SharePoint site for each week, hosting relevant careers information, including event details, online resources, and event recordings, to help students prepare for events by familiarising themselves with the employers and range of activities. These resources are still available to students to explore after the weeks.

Michaelmas 2022 Careers Weeks SharePoint pages
Michaelmas 2022 Careers Weeks SharePoint pages

We held nine careers focus weeks in total, with sectors including STEM, film and television, and sustainability. The careers weeks were well received by students, with attendances of over 4,700 across all the weeks in total.

One student who attended the Law Careers Week commented:

"An excellent, useful, and insightful experience. I'd recommend it to anyone interested in a professional career, whether legal or not."

Image of the Law Careers Fair this year
Image of the Law Careers Fair this year

Focusing on Small to Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs)

One of the careers weeks held during Epiphany term was the ‘Think Big Choose Small’ – SME careers week in February. This was held in line with the service’s commitment to build on our engagement with SMEs, and to increase student awareness of SMEs as a career option. Alongside other events and panels, the highlight of the week was the ‘Think Big Choose Small’ – SME careers fair. 24 SMEs, both local and regional, participated to showcase the breadth of work experience and graduate opportunities available. Businesses commented on the importance of giving SMEs an opportunity to promote themselves. Students found the fair to be informative, with many of them now more aware of the range of opportunities available to them in the local area.

Alongside student events, we also hosted two SME networking sessions targeting employers. This gave employers an opportunity to meet with the team and to discuss opportunities for collaboration. At one of the events, we launched our newly developed SME Information Hub – where SMEs can find tailored information on how the University’s Careers & Enterprise Service can help them engage with and recruit students. The hub also includes advice and guidance on each stage of the recruitment process for employers.

Laura Smith, Employer Services Manager speaking at a Networking Session at Orbit, NETPark
Laura Smith, Employer Services Manager speaking at a Networking Session at Orbit, NETPark

Looking ahead, we plan to host the SME careers week again next year given its success this year and we’ll continue to strengthen our SME engagement and awareness raising. We will be holding another SME networking session in collaboration with Business Durham this June so we can reach more SMEs who might be interested in recruiting our students.

Student Employment Services (SES) enjoys success

Our SES team works with employers to source opportunities and help students find local, part-time and vacation jobs. This year, we were able to bring back the first on campus part-time Jobs & Volunteering Fair since the pandemic, providing an opportunity for students to meet employers and organisations. The fair was very positively received, with more than 700 students attending over the two-hour long event.

Another highlight of the year was the annual Student Employee of the Year Awards. The awards recognise the achievements of students who combine part-time work alongside their studies, and the employers who provide students with these opportunities. This year, 73 nominations were received. The award ceremony was held in April at the historic Durham Town Hall, with students and employers coming together to celebrate the effort and success of those who were nominated.

Information Advice & Guidance (IAG) Team offers careers insights

Alongside providing one-to-one careers appointments, our team of careers advisers also hosts workshops and presentations on a wide variety of career related topics. This academic year we have reintroduced on-campus presentations and workshops. With 19 events taken place over Michaelmas and Epiphany terms, topics have included ‘How to Choose a Career’, ‘How to Write Effective CVs and Covering Letters’, ‘How to Use LinkedIn in your career exploration and job search’. 

We also welcomed guest presenters to our programme. Simon Speight and Ben Taylorson from our Bill Bryson Library demonstrated how to use databases, accessible through the Library, to research companies and job sectors to help target job applications and to stand out at interview. PhD student and networking professional, Jeni Smith, shared her expertise on strategies for building and nurturing professional networks. 

In addition to helping students develop career management skills, we organised career insight panels with professionals from a variety of sectors, many of them Durham alumni who spoke about their career journey and gave insights into their role and sector. These events provided crucial insights into careers that are often harder to get into, supporting students to make an informed decision about their career path.

Enactus Durham wins big at a national competition

Our Enterprise team works with students and graduates to develop their enterprise skills, supporting them with their business ideas and ventures. One of the ways in which we do this is by working with and supporting Enterprising Societies at the University, such as Enactus Durham, a student-led organisation that aims to make positive change through entrepreneurial action. Our Enterprise Manager, Rachel Bickerdike, worked with the team throughout the year and supported their activities. This year, the team participated at the Enactus UK National Competition, competing against other UK Enactus teams. Their efforts were recognised at the competition, as they emerged as the UK National Champion 2023. They will be representing the University and Enactus UK at the Enactus World Cup 2023 in Utrecht.

Well done!

All in all, this academic year has been a resounding success for the Careers & Enterprise team. With the full return to campus, we were able to bring back many in-person events, whilst expanding our offer with online events and resources. Our efforts in work-based learning and enterprise activities have been recognised, and we were able to enhance our SME engagement and service offerings. Looking forward, we will continue to build on the success and feedback of this year and support our students to achieve their career goals.



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