Opportunities for work-related experiences

As part of Global Entrepreneurship Week, Universities Scotland is highlighting how universities in Scotland are embedding entrepreneurship and enterprise in students and staff. Across eight blogs this week, we have experts the length and breadth of Scotland telling their stories about how universities are contributing to make Scotland an entrepreneurial nation.

In our sixth blog in the series, Johnny Mone, Head of Enterprise Services at the University of the West of Scotland discusses how work-related experience within degree programmes has built strong relationships with business as well as enhanced outcomes for students.

As part of Making it Happen, all universities in Scotland committed to offer every student an opportunity for work-related experience during their degree programme. This could include placements, mentoring, enterprise opportunities, field trips and case studies.

This commitment drove us at the University of the West of Scotland (UWS) to focus on the growth of our mentoring and student enterprise programmes and over the last three years 180 students have worked with an Industry mentor to improve their employment and entrepreneurial prospects.

Lynsey McMahon, who oversees the mentoring programme and student opportunities explained “Our programme focuses mostly on widening participation students which has been more successful than we imagined.  Now our future plans are to widen out the programme to students on our London campus. “

The success of the programme is driving it in all kinds of new directions. One such example is the recently development of a pilot mentor scheme with British Airways Maintenance at Glasgow for first year aircraft engineering students and short work placements for aircraft engineering third year students.

Tony Leslie who leads the programme in Aircraft & Mechanical Engineering says the experience has been beneficial to all sides: “our partnership with BAMG is a great example of what happens when universities work with industry partners for the benefit of our students.  Both they and BAMG are more ready for the workplace as a result of the mentor scheme and the work placements.”

The award winning programme at UWS is open to Year 2, 3 and 4 students who are matched with a professional in industry who will share their experience of work to help motivate and inspire. The students meet with their mentor on a one-to-one basis, usually in their workplace and devise an action plan with the support of their mentor to help them get the most from the sessions. They all receive a certificate of completion and recognition on their Higher Education Achievement Record which boosts their CV.

Students get a lot out of the scheme. Frazer Little who is studying for a Bachelor of Accounting reflected: “Signing up for the Employer Mentoring Program was the best decision I’ve made at University so far. Having applied for a number of internships/work experience opportunities in the past and being unsuccessful my confidence was hit hard. I also felt a bit unsure of the career path I wanted to take and I realised that I needed some guidance. The Employer Mentoring Program challenged me to reflect upon my skills which made the path clear and, with the help of my mentor, I set realistic goals to help me realise my full potential. For example, my mentor Steve suggested joining an Accounting Society as a way of networking with employers and because it would be a healthy addition to my CV. There wasn’t one currently set up so, with the help of my classmates, we have founded the first Accounting Society at UWS.

“We got to work straight away to polish up my CV, LinkedIn profile and fundamental interview skills such as competency-based questions, which I had previously struggled with. The reflective aspect of the program much easier to tackle and setting up the society has given me lots of valuable experiences that I can draw on when asked these types of questions. After only a few months I successfully managed to secure an internship with an international accounting firm. During my two week placement I was able to impress and, as a result of my hard work, I have been offered a full-time training contract in External Audit. Provided that I meet the condition of obtaining a 2:1 honours degree I will be working towards my ICAS exams as of next August and the EMP has played a massive part.”

UWS is committed to building this fantastic programme into something much bigger and see the objectives of the Making It Happen as having helped us to grow it into what it is today.


You can read the rest of the blogs in this series as they are published at: