hired@UCB manager "floored" to win national work experience award

March 2019

A UCB manager who sets undergraduates up with work placements has won a national award for creating a first-of-its-kind degree module to give students who may “lack in academic confidence” a real edge on their CVs.

Karen Malcolm, the Employability Manager for higher education for the School of Education, Health and Community within the hired@UCB careers and placements team, was presented with the Outstanding Contribution to Work Experience Award by Olympian Dame Kelly Holmes at the National Undergraduate Employability (NUE) Awards.

“I was floored,” said Karen, who was nominated by UCB Director of Student Employability Paul Doherty. “I was up against finalists from much bigger unis including Newcastle and East Anglia and couldn’t quite believe it.

“I remember rushing up on stage and handing over my half-finished packet of Tunes to Dame Kelly Holmes as she had a sore throat. A funny moment!”

The award recognises Karen’s overall dedication to maximising work experience opportunities for students, but in particular, the Level 6 module she developed for UCB’s School of Education, Health and Community.

By taking the optional ‘Enhancing Employability for Professional Practice’, students have the golden, and quite unique, opportunity to be appraised by their placement supervisor which can see their practice recognised as an ‘exceptional practitioner’.

Ultimately, it means that even if their classification of degree doesn’t end up as high as they hoped, they have a solid endorsement of their practical skills out in industry, which is very important to employers.

In fact, the module has been so popular - the number of students choosing it has jumped from 19 to 43 over the last 4 year – the concept of the module is to become a core module on three UCB degree courses in academic year 2019-20.

These are Early Childhood Studies (Graduate Practitioner), Youth Community and Families and Health and Social Care, all accredited by the University of Birmingham, a high-ranking Russell Group university.

Transforming students

Awards judges said: “The module has transformed students who may lack academic confidence, turning them into excellent practitioners, which appears to have impacted on their academic results too.

“The winner’s dedication, persistence and professionalism has raised the profile of work experience, inspiring her students and the University, which now plans to roll out her module as a core module across the University.”

Karen, who started in early years before working as a manager for a large trust nursery, in service development for under-fives, in SEN, further education offsite teaching and as a mother and baby residential home manager before joining UCB, said she was extremely proud.

“I’ve been an employer out in industry and I was always looking for someone exemplary, with fantastic practical skills as well as academic achievement. By being able to say, “I’m appraised by an employer as an exceptional practitioner,” students can go out into the job market with confidence, which only enhances their degree classification.

“They have an immediately recognisable competitive edge and no gaps on their CV. My team of Employability Tutors support undergraduates for three years to get them to this ‘exceptional’ level.”

Unique service

Since hired@UCB was launched at the University five years ago, hundreds of students have benefitted from the service.

“I’ve spoken to people doing similar roles to me and they think we are doing something really special, really unique here at UCB,” said Karen.

As well as holding a BA (Hons) degree in Childhood Studies and a Postgraduate Certificate in Vocational Teaching and Learning, Karen is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

The NUE Awards, sponsored by ASET, are now in their 10th year and showcase stakeholders from across the UK who demonstrate initiative, innovation and dedication within the field of undergraduate employability.

Find out more about courses within the School of Education, Health and Community.

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