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Career Booster course gives undergraduates a head start in job market, says top academic at University of Bradford

Published: by Neil Hudson

Students learn real industry skills in 'Career Booster' sessions at the University of Bradford

Bolt-on 'Career Booster' workshops use industry experts to teach real world skills from spreadsheets to big data analytics.

“How do you make yourself stand out in today’s job market?” asks Professor Vishanth Weerakkody, Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Management, Law & Social Sciences at the University of Bradford and the man who runs its Career Booster programme.

“With more than 140 universities in the UK, once you begin looking for a job, it can be difficult to get yourself noticed, even with a degree. That’s why three years ago we launched our Career Booster programme.”

The venture offers students the chance to learn industry standard computer software and practices, meaning they already have necessary skills before applying for jobs.

“This is a real opportunity for students to gain valuable real world experience and to enhance timetabled lectures, which are very much based on theory and context. What we’re doing here in Bradford is ensuring that when our students graduate, they have the applied and interpersonal skills organisations are demanding right now”.

“We’re talking about, for example, being able to use Sage™ Accounting, Advanced Excel and SAS Data Analytics. We’re giving our students the chance to learn these in-demand practical skills with the programme as well as the more soft interpersonal attributes such as teamworking, problem solving and negotiating. What this means is, our students’ CVs should be on the top quartile of the 70-plus applications currently received by leading organisations for each of their graduate level vacancies.”

Out of the 12 weeks of a typical academic term, one full week is dedicated to focusing on developing employability skills through the Career Booster programme, with most of the training being delivered by industry-based external experts.

In 2018/9, some 409 students engaged with Career Booster sessions in 78 workshops, racking up a total of 7,911 hours and figures for 2019/20 are expected to be even better.

Vishanth adds: “What we’re saying is, at the point of applying for a job, if you can demonstrate strong interpersonal attributes such resilience, leadership, agility, problem solving and teamwork - some of that can be taught in the classroom but others are better done in a workshop or more simulated settings - then you’ll be in a much stronger position.

“Our focus is to ensure students get into the right jobs, a job linked to their degree and their chosen professional career path. I would like to see Accounting and Finance graduates going into that profession rather than going somewhere else because they are unable to find a suitable job in that field.”

The programme began as a trial in the School of Management in 2017 but has since been rolled out across the faculty including Law and Social Sciences.

Vishanth says the Career Booster skills are particularly apt during the present Covid-19 crisis: “When we are trying to recover from the current crisis and you look at a city like Bradford and the economic challenges it’s going to face, if you are graduating this summer, if you are more dynamic, can think on your feet, are able to solve problems, if you have the skills of analysing big data, using the latest software tools, that means you have some value to add to the recovery process - that’s the whole point of Career Booster.”

The next Career Booster week will take place in October 2020 for all new and existing students at the Faculty of Management, Law and Social Sciences at University of Bradford. The Career Booster team can be contacted by emailing fomlss-businesssupport@bradford.ac.uk and you can follow the latest developments in the programme on Twitter @BradManagement

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