‘So your degree; what are you going to do with that? Do you want to become a teacher?’: Employability in HCA

CC0 [Pixabay]
CC0 [Pixabay]
For a number of years now, the School of History, Classics and Archaeology (HCA) has been working closely with the Careers Service to help address the question every arts and humanities students faces at some point in their career: ‘So your degree; what are you going to do with that? Do you want to become a teacher?’.  We are keen to highlight the employability of our students, while at the same time addressing the graduate outcome challenge that we face: how to ensure our students fulfil their career potential. Our starting point was the reform of the History pre-honours curriculum , in which skills training and, by extension, raising awareness of the value of a degree in History, were a key aspect.

Since then, in close cooperation with the Careers Service, we have been rolling out a School-wide project to situate careers and employability alongside our firm commitment to academic rigour. Aspects of this project include:

  1. Creating student ambassadorships for UGs
  2. Introducing a mentoring scheme with HCA alumni
  3. Establishing a School Careers Board (the first of its kind in CAHSS)
  4. Professionalising our recruitment procedures at both UG and PG level, using application and interview procedures for all paid employment in the School.

In addition, we help facilitate a range of external opportunities for employment, skills training and work experience, such as a renewed commitment to the Employ.Ed Internship Programme, and projects working with and inside secondary schools (e.g. History for Schools, Literacy through Latin) and the wider community (e.g. the Archaeology Outreach Project). We encourage our Student Societies to engage with this agenda through (modest) financial, academic and professional support. In December 2017, we celebrated some of the wonderful work done as part of this by hosting our first HCA Recognition Celebration.

HCA’s commitment to employability is supported by the School Management Committee and an ongoing research project into employability and the HCA degrees. With help from the PTAS scheme, we employed a researcher in the Spring of 2017 to investigate the challenges of employability for students with a degree in History, Classics or Archaeology. This project looked into the various needs and demands of both students and employers in order to produce a better alignment between our degrees, research evidence from education and the workplace, and HE policy. This helped us to contextualise the University’s Graduate Attributes Framework, as well as to further develop our School strategy of working with employers and other stakeholders.

We extended this small project, with direct funding from the School, to start looking into the information we provide at course and degree level that speaks to issues of employability, i.e. the Intended Learning Outcomes, the Graduate Attributes and the Degree Programme Tables and Degree Programme Specifications. We concluded that changing the Degree Regulations and Programmes of Study should highlight how achieving both academic excellence and enhanced employability are interdependent goals.

Following on from this research, we have recently successfully secured funding for a large PTAS project which seeks to devise and implement a strategy which will:

  1. Entrench employability in the curriculum by embedding it into Board of Studies’ approval and revision processes for new and existing courses.
  2. Better articulate to students how HCA courses help develop skills for future careers.
  3. Make more visible the forms of assessment which contribute to employability.

During this two-year long project, we will ultimately:

  • Create a fact sheet for considering employability as part of the course design process
  • Devise a template course and programme description which explicitly discusses employability
  • Incorporate considerations of employability into our Board of Studies guidance, which we hope will provide a model for other Schools in the College.

Working closely with the Careers Service has been a rewarding and mutually beneficial experience. We are investing in the future of our students and are confident that they will reap the benefits, both during their studies, and as HCA graduates.

You can read more about this PTAS- funded project by Esther Mijers and Craig Phillips here.

Esther Mijers

Esther Mijers is Director of Undergraduate Studies for the School of History, Classics and Archaeology. Find out more on Esther’s staff profile

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *