A strengths-based approach has improved student employability at Manchester Metropolitan University, explains Abi Parker, Account Director at Cappfinity.
One of the largest universities in the UK, MMU has around 40,000 students enrolled.
Its Business School is one of the most elite in the country, holding Triple Crown Accreditation with the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the Association of MBAs (AMBA), and the EFMD Quality Improvement System (EQUIS).
Like most universities, MMU provides careers support and guidance at an institutional, faculty and departmental level.
Existing support through a mock Assessment Centre (AC) with external coaches was not delivering the expected ROI.
Why did MMU choose a new approach to improve student employability?
Extensive research into graduate recruitment showed an increase of strengths-based initiatives.
In 2020, MMU partnered with strengths pioneers and early careers experts – Cappfinity – to focus on student employability.
Together, they formulated a new inclusive approach with a shared vision to remove barriers to involvement, by embedding the resource into the curriculum.
How did it work in practice?
- Curriculum plans were changed overnight
- Over 70 staff received online training to become Accredited Personal Strengths Profile Tutors
- Every first-year student was invited to complete a Strengths Profile assessment, to understand their employability strengths, critically reflect and set SMART goals
- This continued in years two and three, with the creation of a CPD Plan and students revisited their employability strengths to prepare for video interview and AC
- Building on the university’s local links and Cappfinity’s knowledge of strengths in organisations, students benefitted from engagement with multiple employers on the importance of behavioural skills and the impact of strengths in action
- This brought the scheme to life externally and was grounded in the personal insight developed during the first year
- Over 2,000 students engaged, with the standard of assignments since launch extremely high. (36% of students in the 2020-21 cohort achieved a 1:1 degree classification)
- Embedding this approach had a huge impact on staff development, with strengths language embedded across their PD Reviews
- Some students have already received offers of employment as a direct result of the contacts they made at the AC
A strengths-based approach allows students to understand what they are naturally good at and enjoy doing.
Students are equipped to strategically choose and apply for roles playing to their strengths, encouraging authenticity in applications and interviews with improved employability outcomes.
Over 10,000 students make up the Faculty of Business and Law. Following the success of the project, the partnership is now being extended across every department within the faculty.
Further internal conversations are taking place at a university level too. Importantly, these are being led by academics within the university – a sign of true trust and partnership.
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