Southampton wins AGCAS Award for Partnership with Professional Services 2016

14 October 2016

The winner of the 2016 AGCAS Award for Partnership with Professional Services, sponsored by Unitemps, is the University of Southampton. The Careers and Employability Service demonstrated collegiality and partnership with Enabling Services in the launch of a programme to support the successful transition of disabled students into employment and develop confidence in their awareness of the graduate labour market.

Empowered decisions

The departments sought to collaborate to ensure that disabled students, and in particular those from low employment rate categories, had the opportunity to look ahead to entering the job market, to consider their individual needs and fears and to build their confidence and develop their knowledge to support them to make informed and empowered decisions.

Initially, in 2013, the University of Southampton had engaged with Equality Focus, an external consultancy specialising in disability issues, to support an initiative that could be designed within Student Services. A series of focus groups were run to identify what type of additional support students wanted, which resulted in an independently collected set of qualitative data to inform the scheme. Following this collaboration, the Careers and Employability Service, in partnership with Enabling Services, decided to develop a workshop for students to introduce aspects of the Equality Act 2010 and support transition to work. In addition, the partnership focused on the development of a resource toolkit for students and a series of events for employers to meet students with disabilities through informal sessions and networking opportunities.

Positive outcomes

The results have been very positive and the scheme has received record levels of student satisfaction. One student, who reported increased positivity around disclosing their disability following the sessions, said:

"I have a much greater knowledge of what the situation is regarding disclosing a disability and as a result of this knowledge I feel a lot more confident about disclosing my disability and how I would go about doing that. I also had no idea about the certain graduate schemes that are directly targeted at disabled graduates."

The ultimate measure of effectiveness is that 90% of those students who responded to the graduate survey following the workshop had disclosed that they were now in employment or further study. This statistic sends an empowering message to disabled students with disabilities regarding the value of higher education and the positive outcomes for employment.

Helen Fuge, Head of Careers and Employability at the University of Southampton, said:

"This award symbolises just how much we have achieved as a service over the past year and also how vital effective partnerships, both internally and external, are for the success of a Careers and Employability Service. This will raise our profile both internally with key partners, externally with employers but also within the AGCAS circle."

Judges' comments

Awards judges found that the scheme, through effective partnership, successfully addressed challenges faced by many disabled students. They were particularly impressed at how the two departments were able to work together to support and build students' confidence and develop their knowledge of disclosure issues.

One judge commented:

"Their externally validated data combined with a very effective partnership has led to some exceedingly well-tailored activities for students with disabilities. I was very impressed by the innovation and proactivity behind their café event and the opportunities it provided for personal interaction between employers and students. Their greatly improved outcomes speaks volumes for the empowerment of students with disabilities, which is the keystone of this partnership.