AGCAS HE Careers Services Survey – Research Report

University careers services are increasingly offering differentiated careers and employability interventions and optimizing opportunities to work with employers and other key stakeholders in innovative ways to support students’ transition into the graduate labour market, according to the AGCAS HE Careers Services Survey 2018.

The vast majority of careers services had developed particular careers and employability initiatives to engage specific students in the year to 31 July 2018. Increasingly, strategic priority is being given to activity targeted to specific groups of students, especially those who may be more likely to face barriers going into the job market. Over half of careers services had developed initiatives for non-traditional students (NTS), including students from schools/areas of low HE participation, BME students and students from other disadvantaged backgrounds.

Over two thirds of careers services had developed initiatives for subject-specific students, students with a disability or physical/mental condition(s), and students aiming for self-employment/business start-up. Heads of service also reported the delivery of differentiated careers and employability support to female students, postgraduate students, final-year students and first-year students.

Increasingly, careers services are delivering segmented, inclusive communication campaigns and deploying resources in ways designed to achieve high levels of student engagement. Over six out of ten careers services had adopted new approaches to improve service branding and communication with particular focus on targeted delivery, for example via personalised campaigns aimed at different groups of students.

Employer engagement still remains a core feature of careers service strategies. Heads of service reported the continuing delivery of employer-led activities and other initiatives involving employer input. For example, employer presentations (delivered in 92% of services), employer-led skills workshops/seminars (delivered in 88% of services) and employer attendance at careers fairs (which increased in 52% of services).

Re-affirming the long-standing critical partnerships with employers, the research also highlights careers services’ proactivity in facilitating opportunities to engage employers in a wider range of cross-institutional initiatives relating to careers and employability, including activities in the curriculum. Many heads reported changes to the types of employers they were working with as graduate recruiters respond to calls to diversify their workforce, with many careers services able to reach out and influence employers regarding inclusive recruitment.

The research captures careers services’ innovation in evolving external stakeholder relationships beyond ‘traditional’ employer engagement activity. Nine out of ten careers services had developed relationships with other external stakeholders, including regional/local business associations/networks (86%), district councils (66%) and Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) (59%). This activity contributes to the pivotal role that universities have to play in their home regions by facilitating student and graduate awareness of their local employment market.

The research also found that over three quarters of heads perceived the graduate labour market in the year to 31 July 2018 to be more buoyant or unchanged compared to the previous year. However, looking ahead to the next academic year, heads have a less optimistic outlook for graduate career opportunities, with 35.3% reporting concerns largely due to the unknown economic impact of Brexit.

The AGCAS HE Careers Services Survey is a succession of the AGCAS Graduate Labour Market Survey, which AGCAS has run annually since 2014. The survey has evolved to capture heads’ perspectives of the graduate labour market, graduate vacancies, and the changing nature of the work of university careers services and their stakeholders, and highlights the role, scope and scale of the modern-day HE careers service.

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