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Monday, 14 July 2014

Track B - Live Briefs and the Employability Agenda - Alison Winch (MPA)

This session explored how the Media department has sought to provide meaningful employability experiences for students.

Ben started by discussing initial concerns about the employability agenda and the potential conflict between education as a means to an end providing skills for a specific purpose compared with something which is intrinsically useful. However accepting the wider environment with 39 applicants for every graduate job and a workforce where there are “Few barristers; many baristas” it is clear why students seek and expect to gain skills and experiences which will assist them in their working life.

Alison and Ben then focused on the Live Briefs projects which they have been running for the past three years. These simulate a professional environment - pitching to external organisations, and delivering on a brief. There is sometimes competition between teams with the prize of a workm placement for the best work.

These projects teach the students practical skills which relate directly to the real world - and build their responsibility, rather than being able to rely on the module leaders for guidance. As Ben said, “Practice is heightened by the possibility of failure and the rush of real life success.”

One recent project was linked to the Intern Aware campaign. The students carried out promotional and marketing events at the University, gathered signatures and linked up with MDXSU as well as students at other universities. This culminated in the presentation of 4000 signatures to Vince Cable ahead of a parliamentary vote.

This was an example of a successful project but not everything had gone as smoothly. Challenges included the difficulty of sometimes getting students to work collaboratively with each other in teams. It was also more difficult for the lecturers than normal teaching: needing to strike a delicate balance act between independence and guidance-students want freedom but also need structure. However when it worked well it provided a meaningful learning experience for students as well as being rewarding for the academic staff.

 Report by Matthew Lawson, Assistant Director, Library and Learner Development

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