Why now is the right time for the HE careers sector to design its future

Jun 21, 2021 | Sector & policy

Content provided by: Handshake 

‘Design thinking’ can enable HE professionals to take further strides in making graduate recruitment successful and accessible for all, explains Handshake.

It would be a massive understatement to say that the Covid-19 crisis has thrown some curveballs at the HE sector – requiring significant effort, resource, initiative and new ways of thinking.

At Handshake, we’ve been continually impressed by the resilience of our university colleagues – particularly in how they’ve helped ease students’ transition into the working world. Virtual careers fairs and online networking have replaced in-person ‘milk rounds’ and careers services have worked hard to ensure opportunities for all.

But as well as dealing with immediate needs, the Coronavirus pandemic has been pivotal in forcing universities to confront long-standing challenges.

Top of the list is ensuring value for money and tackling perceptions of elitism, again particularly around graduate recruitment. And this has spurred leaders into focusing on how they might adapt for the long-term. Some elements of Covid provision, such as the ability to take online courses and virtual job interviews, might become permanent while some might move back to pre-pandemic status quo.

Of course, any post-Covid planning must begin with the students. Students are more discerning than ever about what they expect from university, demanding greater certainty about their learning experience, pastoral care and employability – and so a student-centric approach is needed.

And we believe critical to building a student-centric approach is harnessing a method usually the territory of commercial organisations: ‘design thinking’.

The iterative methodology which has taken the business world by storm solves problems by prioritising the consumer’s (and in this case, the student’s) needs above all else. Indeed, university leaders now have an important opportunity to reflect, observe how current cohorts interact with their environments, and then take a creative and hands-on approach to building on the work they’re already doing.

So how do institutions get started? The first step is to understand the four key principles of design thinking: Empathy (understanding what your students want), Expansive Thinking (big picture brainstorming), Experimentation (test and test again) and Empowerment (allowing parties from across an institution to get involved and have their say). By following this process, HE professionals can harness the power of design thinking to take further strides in their mission to make graduate recruitment successful and accessible for all.

Handshake is offering practical support too. As part of our Early Career Recovery Fund, we’re offering a free design thinking course for careers services professionals.

Running from 28th June to 15th July, Careers2030 is an accredited course for emerging leaders, with the goal of creating a more equitable university to career transition for every student.

Unlike other conferences and events in the sector, Careers2030 is a collaborative and immersive programme which promises to help delegates apply the design thinking concept to their own institutions’ challenges. It will culminate with a virtual celebration and award ceremony where winning participants will receive £1,500 funding to implement their vision.

And importantly, it promises to be plenty of fun. It’s free to attend, but places are limited – so to reserve your space by clicking here.


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