The university of the future
The role of higher education in modern society is changing. A degree alone is no longer enough to guarantee our graduates a satisfying future career. Various studies have shown that the university of the future will have a much more significant focus on graduate employability. With an emphasis on work-integrated learning, students will be expected to gain industry-based experience as part of the requirement for obtaining a university degree.
A focus on employability, with the provision of services targeted towards boosting employability, will benefit students. Graduates will find themselves better equipped for the working world, while employers will access a workforce that can hit the ground running.
Supporting student employability since 1997
Started by the University of Warwick, Unitemps is a university-owned, campus-based recruitment service which seeks to address key challenges in higher education, such as employability, compliance and financial limitations. With its heritage firmly grounded in the higher education sector, Unitemps is an employment solution placing students and workers from the wider community in temporary, permanent, graduate and internship roles within universities and local businesses.
Unitemps was first launched as an internal HR function at the University of Warwick, which gradually expanded to include placing students with clients external to the University. As Unitemps gained interest from other universities, the team decided to launch a nationwide franchise model in 2010.
The Unitemps franchise network now spans 16 universities and has consistently achieved outstanding results. In the last academic year alone, over 3.8 million hours were worked by nearly 34,000 Unitemps candidates, 80% of which were students.
The benefits of working through Unitemps for students
Previously, ‘student jobs’ often referred to university ambassador positions or related roles whereby students would represent their university. Unitemps wanted to break this cycle, by creating a wider range of accessible job opportunities for people from all backgrounds, such as BAME students and students with disabilities.
Unitemps enables students to enhance their employability throughout their university career, whether it’s by opening up part-time opportunities within a university department, or matching students with internships in local businesses, which can lead to employment during the university holidays or even a permanent job after graduating. In turn, businesses gain trained and rounded graduates with the confidence and soft skills required for the working world.
The nationwide network of branches helps candidates to find work during term time, at home during the holidays and whilst travelling, resulting in a better overall student experience with diverse employment opportunities. George Louca, a graduate from City, University of London, shared his experience after working through Unitemps: “One of my initial motivations for turning to Unitemps was simply a way to earn a little extra money and contribute to my tuition fees. It quickly turned into the best part of university, and the benefits have been immeasurable. I’ve enhanced my team working, leadership and networking skills. When I secured a graduate job, my employers were impressed with the scope of roles I’d carried out.”
Working with university careers departments to integrate employability
Unitemps provides an opportunity for students to start developing their employability skills from the beginning of their university career. Driving early engagement like this is incredibly valuable, as guidance from careers departments is often used by students towards the end of their studies.
The two departments work in tandem and there are many advantages to this alignment, including the ability to refer students for career advice and CV workshops. If a student needs assistance with applying for roles, the recruitment teams will collaborate with the careers teams to improve the student’s CV and application skills. Another good example can be drawn from Canterbury Christ Church University. With student employability firmly on the agenda, Canterbury Christ Church University opened their Unitemps franchise in 2015 as part of their strategy to prepare their students for the world of work, while providing a flexible income. Claire Charles, Assistant Head of Career Development, expressed her enthusiasm for the integration with Unitemps, commenting: “This ensures that the opportunities available to our students are quality assured, contribute to enhancing their learning, and improve their employability."
Since opening their branch, Christ Church has generated a significant saving through reducing spend on external recruitment agencies and accessing a VAT free supply of internal staff. In 2017, the Careers team chose to invest their Unitemps surplus in a three-day personal development course for the students. Delivered by Grit, the course would usually cost £2,000 per attendee. Christ Church were able to fund this for 100 students. After participating in the taster session, the students described how their new understanding and skills would make their university experience more enjoyable and enable them to be more confident when applying for jobs, speaking at interviews and integrating into companies.
In 2016, a new career development programme was launched by the University of Northampton to aid student employability. This structured programme was designed for students registered with Unitemps, to support them with all aspects of employability, through self-reflection assessments and workshops on job readiness. Upon competition, candidates secured a range of positions, including a Children’s Book Designer and Graduate Analyst role.
Nottingham Trent University joined the network in 2017, offering a wide range of work opportunities. David Eade, Director of Employability and Enterprise at the University, commented: “We made a significant investment in the employability agenda at Nottingham Trent and having committed to requiring every student to have an assessed work experience during their period of study... In parallel, momentum was growing behind seeking solutions to ease the financial pressures some of our students’ experience when coming to university; a significant percentage of our students come from lower socio-economic backgrounds and for them, paid employment is a necessity if they are to complete their studies. An internal temp agency in the form of Unitemps provided an ‘off-the-shelf’ solution in which we could be confident about integration into our existing systems.”
Paul Brewster is Director of Warwick Employment Group, the University of Warwick’s commercial division for recruitment and people orientated services. With more than 30 years of experience in these disciplines, Paul is responsible for leading the department, and cultivating its products and services to support the education sector, worldwide.