07 Nov The AGCAS Conference UK, 2016
The annual AGCAS Conference UK was hosted by Chester University on 6-8th September 2016. The Australian contingent included Rohan Holland (Readygrad), Michelle Cook (UTS) and Jen Clark (The University of Adelaide) as well as our friends at Gradconnection and Careerhub.
We were fortunate to be able to present workshops on the great work happening in down under in collaboration with both the University of Adelaide (Graduate Career Readiness – in-curriculum) and UTS (BAcc Program – co-curricular employability program).
I thought it was worth sharing some highlights of the conference to give our broader NACAS membership some insight of the conference itself.
Some key highlights were:
- ‘Brexit’ – this was a topic covered during either specific discussions or non-related workshops. It was very apparent that the ongoing changes of how Brexit might impact Careers Services (and the education sector more broadly) in the UK was a hot topic of conversation with our UK colleagues.
- Scalability of employability programs – Face to face v Online – much like in Australia currently, the appetite for how Universities can do ‘more with less’ and engage more students at scale was widely discussed with no real obvious solutions. The limitations of budgets and resources are very real (and similar to what I see in Australia).
- Engagement of industry and third-party providers – This was an interesting one. The UK seem to be at a very similar stage to universities across Australia. That is, becoming more and more open to the idea of getting ‘help from outside’. In the UK, much like our market here in Australia, there are a number of universities who are doing this in a planned and integrated way and a number of institutions who are beginning to explore the idea more strategically. I sensed this has come from both an area of limited internal resources and also expertise / industry insight.
- In-curriculum v co-curricular employability programs – there is some evidence to suggest that some universities are delivering employability programs in-curriculum (and successfully) while many are considering or evaluating the best solutions for their institution. What we did see was a lot of interest and discussion from those who attending our workshop/s (particularly the in-curriculum ‘Graduate Careers Readiness’ with the University of Adelaide).
- Social – Our UK counterparts know how to let their hair down just as well (if not better!) than us. There were social events each evening of the conference, including a Wine Reception and Gala Dinner evening which included the AGCAS awards at the famous Chester Racecourse. A great time had by all.
In summary, I sensed that the challenges and barriers to delivering meaningful employability programs are as real and similar in the UK market as they are here in Australia. There is a huge appetite for online (and scalable) delivery and the openness to third party provider partnerships for either niche or integrated programs was very evident. The good news for us here in Australia is that, from what we saw, there are similar challenges and barriers but arguably some more progressive and innovative programs being run here which would be competitive on the international stage.
Rohan Holland is a director and co-founder of Readygrad. Readygrad is student coaching organisation established to build employability skills with students through blended employability programs with an employer point of view.