THE CONSORTIUM: AN INNOVATIVE APPROACH TO EMPLOYABILITY
Editor: Erik Bohemia, Ahmed Kovacevic, Lyndon Buck, Peter Childs, Stephen Green, Ashley Hall, Aran Dasan
Author: Watkins, Matthew Alan; Clarke, Phil
Institution: Nottingham Trent University, United Kingdom
Section: Collaboration and Industrial Involvement in Design and Engineering Education
Employability is increasing in both importance and visibility in Higher Education due to its inclusion as a key metric in the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), in which the Destination of Leavers of Higher Education (DLHE) returns consist of 2 of the 6 core TEF metrics. Furthermore increasing levels of student fees and subsequently student debt has placed a greater emphasis on value for money in Higher Education, which itself casts a light on employment and graduate salaries. This paper explores a trial undertaken within an undergraduate Product Design sandwich course in the UK. On a sandwich course, students would typically be expected to secure an industrial placement with the assistance from the Universities employability team for the 3rd year of a 4-year degree. Whilst dedicated employability support is given to students to obtain a placement, some students can struggle despite their academic achievement to obtaining a placement. This is due to a lack of confidence and an inability to perform effectively in an interview context, and is especially acute in the context of growing student numbers and therefore greater competition. With such students in mind, an innovative collaboration was launched between three separate agencies to trial ‘The Consortium’ an in-house student run consultancy. ‘The Consortium’ was trialled with 3 cohorts of students over a 3 year period to give able students who struggled to obtain industrial placements an opportunity to gain experience of working for external clients and running their own business. The university provided space, business advice, oversight and networks, which the students were encouraged to use to bring in live design projects, which they would undertake as a group of 3-5 designers during their sandwich year.