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Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU): BIO Employability Exit (BEE) Initiative

The Division of BIO within the School of Health and Life Sciences and GCU Careers Service have created the BEE Initiative. This initiative addresses employment rates for international MSc students within biological and biomedical sciences (BIO) with an emphasis on improving career prospects both locally, globally and in their home country. It aims to empower graduates to understand the value of transferable 21st century graduate attributes, develop career management skills and raise confidence in dealing with employers.

BEE Initiative content

The creation of an employer seminar series and networking events
A seminar series of guest speakers from industry and academia are invited into the Careers Service to give insight into working in different industrial companies and research settings.

Networking – forum theatre workshop
Forum theatre is an innovative way of engaging students in issues relating to employability. Actors are used to perform short scenarios in the role of international students as they explore the challenges and dilemmas they face with networking and dealing with cultural differences and experiences of the UK labour market. The workshop has a facilitator who provides a link between the performance and the audience, prompting the spectators to ask questions or comment on the action. The audience are active participants and the session can be stopped at key points to address issues or to ask questions allowing them to shape the outcome of the events that they are observing.

This is a non-threatening and informative way of encouraging students to benchmark, evaluate and reflect on their own skills in these areas and how they can improve. Employers are also invited along to participate in the workshop and provide a real opportunity for networking. Employers attending include SMEs, large scientific companies, representatives from professional bodies, scientific recruitment agencies and members of academic staff involved in recruiting PhDs. 

Launching an Academic Career workshop
Many students wish to apply for a PhD studentship and to continue in the field of scientific research. Applying for such positions is different from applying for an internship or job in industry. A workshop has been developed to provide guidance on considering an academic career and how to apply for such positions.

A current PhD student presents to students on their role and why they decided to do a PhD. This gives students the opportunity to find out more about the day-to-day activities of a PhD student. Academic staff from BIO inform students of their role and how they launched their academic career. BIO academics are, in this instance, the employer/recruiter and can therefore give useful advice on what is required on academic applications. The careers adviser delivers a practical session on preparing academic CVs and application forms.

BIO internships
Students/graduates are invited to apply for an internship, which involves working in a university research team for three months. This year, this has been expanded to include a teaching assistant post and an industry-based internship. As the majority of the students/graduates are international, this gives them the opportunity to have UK work experience. Internships are advertised on the university careers service website and students submit an online application.

Candidates are selected to attend a competitive panel interview. The panel consists of the lead recruiting academic, the programme leader for MSc Biosciences and the careers adviser. Questions are set in advance by the programme leader and the careers adviser. All candidates are scored by the panel. Successful candidates are appointed to the appropriate internship. This gives the student the opportunity to experience an authentic UK selection process. Students receive feedback from the careers adviser at each stage of the selection procedure.

Preparation for internships (as part of the BIO internships programme)
Prior to the internships being advertised, students/graduates are invited to attend a preparatory workshop delivered by the careers adviser and programme leader. This workshop supports students/graduates in applying for the internships and develops their career management skills. It involves practical, interactive exercises on completing applications forms, interview techniques and identifying and evidencing scientific skills and soft skills. The careers adviser draws on their own knowledge from contact with graduate recruiters and the expertise of the academics in Bio to identify the skills required.

Career development workshops
This project embeds tailored and specific career management and employability workshops throughout the MSc programmes. Following graduation, career management skills are further developed by the BEE initiative workshops. Our graduates have found these very useful for honing skills and increasing their confidence.

The development of the BIO Careers Net online community
An online community has been created where students and graduates can view all events and information relating to BEE activities, as well as blog entries.

BIO job club
Students meet regularly in the Careers Centre to get tailored support from the careers adviser with their job search. The job club also encourages students to support each other and share their experiences of job hunting.

BEE Initiative outcomes

The BEE Initiative has proven particularly successful for a number of students who have gained significantly from the support and experience obtained. Feedback is very positive from students, academics and employers. Participants have found jobs in the NHS, scientific companies in the UK and overseas, and have secured PhD positions.

See also Business Networking: Developing employability skills through forum theatre


Tags: wilson review international students PhD academic research internships University AGCAS

Created on: 25 June 2012

Last updated: 02 July 2012

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