Global Connections Part 2: #RyersonAtOxford Staff Exchange
Since landing back in Toronto, I have been contemplating on how to summarize my staff exchange at the University of Oxford. How was I going to tell my story, without writing a novel about my learning experience and uploading 900+ photos (I took a few pictures)?
Over the course of 9 days, I was inspired and challenged to think differently by Oxford’s Careers Service department. The exchange broadened my perspective on career development and its importance within higher education. Through my interactions with the Oxford Careers team, I noted the emphasis placed on student and alumni engagement, empowerment, and evaluation. I was also provided a safe environment to reflect on my own advising style, as I looked for ways to expand on these best practices back in Canada.
To increase engagement and access to career support on campus, the Oxford Careers team has streamlined their administrative processes and career offering to meet the diverse needs of their students and alumni. For one-to-one appointments, students are typically referred to a short discussion (15 minutes) with a Careers Adviser, before they can book a long discussion meeting (which can be 30, 45, or 60 minutes in length, depending on the needs of the student). Similar to the appointment types at Ryerson, the discussion topics range from career exploration to interview preparation. The team facilitates approximately 6,000 short discussions each year, and appointments are released 2 days in advance to decrease the number of no-shows.
In addition to offering company information sessions, employers play an active role at Oxford by leading skills sessions, hosting Recruiter-In-Residence appointments, and enrolling in the Recruiters’ Group. For instance, employer led skills sessions vary from Technical Skills for Banking Interviews, Online Test Practice Sessions, Tackling Application Forms, to How to Demonstrate Commercial Awareness. As a Recruiter-In-Residence, an employer will meet with students for one-to-one appointments such as resume reviews and mock interviews. The Recruiters’ Group is an optional program that employers pay an annual fee for to receive booking discounts, priority sponsorship opportunities, and access to customized student searches. Employers can also participate in the 14 career fairs hosted each year.
Joining the Oxford Careers team is an Entrepreneur-In-Residence, who works part-time on a commercial contract. The Entrepreneur-In-Residence offers mentorship to students, interested in launching their own ventures, through one-to-one appointments and group programmes (The Student Consultancy and Insight Into Business).
The Oxford Careers Service collaborates with different departments on and off campus to maximize their career support. Working with the Counselling Service, the careers team hosts sessions such as “Assertiveness Skills for Women.” A designated Careers Adviser is in close contact with the Disability Advisory Service on campus to help address student concerns around disclosure, adjustments/accommodations in employment, and testing/recruitment activities requested by employers. Alumni have the option to access career support through evening Skype appointments, and the Oxford Careers team engages their local community by presenting career planning tips to high school students.
The programming offered by the Oxford Careers Service encourages students to be an active participant in their own career planning and development. During my exchange, I was particularly interested in the following programmes.
The Internship Office is housed under the Oxford Careers Service, and provides opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to gain hands-on experience around the world. In addition to full-time internships that span from 4–12 weeks over the summer, students also have the option of applying for a micro-internship—a full-time placement that lasts 2–5 days. Micro-internships are project based, and assignments range from setting up a studio for a charity radio to developing an internship host’s social media presence. Students submit a written testimonial of their internship experience, which is compiled into an annual Internship Programme Yearbook.
The Student Consultancy
To help students enhance their critical thinking skills and business acumen, the Oxford Careers Service collaborates with its Entrepreneur-In-Residence to run The Student Consultancy programme. Undergraduate and graduate students from any academic background can participate in the programme and, after 2 days of training, students are divided into teams to work on a client case from the Oxfordshire region. The teams have one term (8 weeks) to hypothesize, collect data, and propose a recommendation to help address their client’s business concern. Client organizations range from IBM, Oxford City Council, to the Bodleian Library.
Springboard is a personal and professional development programme for women, completing their undergraduate or master’s degrees at Oxford. Over the course of 3 days, workshops cover topics such as self-assessment, assertiveness, and confidence building. Participants attend a 1 day follow-up session, after the completion of the programme.
The Oxford Careers team assesses their programming on an annual basis through student and employer surveys. A small subset of student clients are surveyed every term to determine if the career support that they received was empathetic and helpful. Employers are asked to provide feedback on how Oxford students compare to students on different campuses, and the skills that Oxford students need to further develop. Internally, the Careers Advisers conduct peer reviews every term to observe each other’s appointments and group sessions. Alumni are surveyed 6 months after graduation, as part of the British Government’s Destination of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey.
My time with the Oxford Careers Service team has prompted me to think critically about the career support that we provide to students and alumni at Ryerson, and how we encourage career development in Canada. I look forward to sharing my staff exchange highlights at the 2016 CACUSS Conference in Winnipeg next week. My final post for this blog series, Global Connections Part 3, will outline my personal thoughts and suggestions around career programming, based on my observations from England.