The graduate job market continues to become more and more competitive, year upon year. The UK now sends 47% of school leavers to University, one of the highest percentages of any country in the world. However, only 31% of graduates are landing a graduate level job.
There has already been some great work done by Universities to address this, but clearly more needs to be done in order to fulfill the promise to students that investing in their further education will unlock future higher earning potential.
Crowdfunding can make an important contribution to the employability agenda – it is not only a fantastic way to help students fund their extra-curricular projects, but also teaches important life skills that are vital in new graduates finding that all important graduate level role.
Here’s how the Click team have been influencing employability at Essex:
The Big Essex Award is the University’s Employability Award. It aims to ‘identify the skills you’ve developed over your time at Essex so that you can show future employers why they should hire you’. Launched in 2012, over 4,000 Essex students have used the scheme.
Students complete a range of modules, which are then listed on their Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR). Previously this was marked on their degree transcript, but now students must use the Big Essex scheme in order to have any annotations on their record.
We launched two crowdfunding modules for the Big Essex Award in January, which vary in points value depending on how involved in the project the student is.
Students that complete the module have the following added to the HEAR record, which can then be sent to prospective employers:
The Crowdfunding Module helps students to develop very useful skills such as entrepreneurship, planning, budgeting and managing a business project, as well as multimedia and digital marketing practices.
In addition, crowdfunding enhances student’s passion, ambition and innovation in order to complete their project.
Whilst we don’t have formal teaching of crowdfunding at Essex at the moment (we’re working on that though), we do try to have as much contact time with our crowdfunders as we can.
We hold regular workshops, on topics from getting the most out of your project page (including my notorious ‘How crowdfunding is a lot like pro wrestling’ workshop), to promotion and digital marketing. They are well attended, and really seem a great way to teach the basics of crowdfunding in an engaging and interesting way (okay well maybe not the wrestling bit!).
We have a fantastic relationship with our Student Enterprise Officer at Essex. This has translated into a steady flow of fantastic enterprise projects on Click.
We regularly attend networking evenings organised by the Enterprise Team, and it’s a great way to not only meet student entrepreneurs, but also interested stakeholders from the local community.
Picking up on Duncan Knox’s flowchart from a previous blog, we’ve been able to use the connections from our stakeholders to put the EyeWink team in touch with an Essex alumnus that works for the Alzheimer’s Society. As a result, they’ve made a deal where they can test their prototypes in a live environment – a fantastic breakthrough for their app.
We’re really proud of our EyeWink team, and look forward to seeing their app go from strength to strength.
Crowdfunding is a fantastic and innovative way of raising money. It suits the accountability and impact that donors demand, and the quirky and sometimes instant need for student funding. But its importance shouldn’t just stop there.
We can formally recognise the value of crowdfunding skills, and put this value front and centre to graduate employers. This can then not only help solve a very real challenge in UKHE, but grow crowdfunding as a whole.