York wins AGCAS Award for Technology 2016

02 October 2016

The winner of the 2016 AGCAS Award for Technology, sponsored by FDM, is Careers at the University of York for their York Profiles & Mentors scheme. The scheme is an innovative new web platform that connects students directly to graduates working in their job sector of interest. Since its release in December 2015, nearly 1,000 profiles have been created, allowing students to read career stories, ask questions and engage in an ongoing mentoring relationship.

What makes it special?

The platform allows students and alumni to produce profiles about their experiences of working in a particular role or employment sector. This offers students the opportunity to not only research job sectors and career paths by reading real case studies, but it also provides them with the opportunity to post questions directly to the profile creator and request a professional mentoring relationship.

This project demonstrates a creative use of technology to bridge gaps between university students and alumni in a more personalised and engaging way than traditional professional networking services. Students can search profiles and mentors by any combination of: industry sector, academic department, country, opportunity type, college, faculty and size of business. This enables students to get very specific search results, which are personalised to them, whilst the alumni are assured that their insights are directed precisely to those they would particularly like to assist. Furthermore, the platform can be embedded into any page of the university website, allowing departments to showcase their graduates to potential and current students. The platform also offers guidance for both students and graduates for developing a successful mentoring relationship.

The system was built in collaboration between the careers team and the Development and Alumni Relations Office (DARO) at York. The two teams continue to collaborate on the promotion of the platform across the university and amongst the alumni community.

Data analytics

The platform was launched officially in December 2015 and has been incredibly successful in engaging both current students and university alumni. Nearly 1,000 profiles have been created, spanning across 22 job sectors and 51 countries. In this time there have been over 30,000 unique page views, with an average session lasting eleven minutes, which reflects the great deal of interest from both current students and graduates of York.

The administrative back-end of the platform makes it simple for staff to pull out data analytics. In addition to seeing the number of profiles completed, in draft form or in the process of being edited, staff can also access the number of profiles available in detailed breakdown by demographic. Information can also be accessed on the number of student mentees by department or college. This information is invaluable in producing targeted marketing campaigns for alumni and students. It also gives careers consultants greater insight into departmental engagement, enabling them to target specific departments to increase the number of mentor/mentee relationships.

Building relationships

The platform has recently been featured in one of the university student newspapers, as "an informative and valuable resource" which includes "a wealth of advice and support" in addition to being "easily accessible". The platform was also praised in a recent student feedback survey for its usability and approachability. Alumni also responded positively to the system as it allows them to engage with current students to the extent that they feel is appropriate to them. The ability to link to either an old department or college adds a new dimension to the relationships the alumni can forge and support.

Irena Zientek, Information Resources Manager at the University of York, said:

"Winning an AGCAS award has certainly given us something to shout about! As our work can sometimes be overlooked, this award has helped acknowledge the creativity, forward thinking and innovation within our careers team."

Judges' comments

Awards judges were very impressed by York Profiles & Mentors and were struck by the immediate positive impact it was having at the university. The scheme was praised for being a good example of technology bringing people from all over the world closer together. Furthermore, the engagement shown on the website’s statistics also greatly impressed the judges.