There is a lot going on. Priorities are changing all across the University.
For me, one priority has been to get some of my learning technology service teams on to contracts which are more secure. I have some amazingly talented and highly skilled professional in my teams.
That done, my next step was to ensure that we maintain our commitment to our student internships and sandwich placements. I’m pleased to say we are recruiting dozens of students to help us with our digital shift to blended, flexible and inclusive learning in semester 1, and we are offering placement years to computing students from Napier University.
If you know anyone interested: ‘Working closely with colleagues across the University, you will bring a strong customer focus, an enthusiasm for problem-solving, a methodical and efficient management of your workload as well as a desire to learn new skills and gain expertise in new areas. We value your communication and digital skills, knowledge and experience of working with learners and teachers’.
At Edinburgh Learning Technology Support Officers may specialise in a particular area of technology to provide expert guidance and support. We are interested to hear from people who might specialise in video, AR/VR, remote teaching, skills training, digital humanities or computational notebooks as these are growing areas of demand.
The Information Services Group (ISG) at University of Edinburgh is committed to providing work experience for Edinburgh students. The student workers in our organisation transform the culture, bring new viewpoints and diversity to our teams and provide unique student perspectives on our services to help us improve. Increasing the number of students who work in our organisation is part of our strategic ambitions and a vital part of enabling the University effectively to meet future challenges.
For the last 4 years we have had specific programmes in place to recruit and support students into our data, digital and IT jobs as interns over the summer and as part time workers throughout the year. Students work in our organisation in a wide range of roles including: as web developers, IT trainers, media producers, project support officers, help desk staff, graphic designers, AV fit-out technicians, data analysts and learning technologists. We aim to develop a strong and vibrant community of young staff who are supported, valued, developed and engaged.
The work on this initiative is ongoing and growing. Team managers are finding opportunities to work with students across more and more projects. They say:
“It started with a single summer internship analysing some data from our MOOC courses. Since then we’ve had summer interns developing media migration tools, capturing case studies on how media is used, assessing chat bots and where they could fit into our work, and helping with the roll out of lecture recording. This year we also had a team of around 30 students working with us over the start of term to support lecture recording use in large teaching spaces.”
“Personally I loved the experience of working with students again, and in a brand new area of IT support. I find their enthusiasm for the role and energy is infectious and I’m always looking for ways to challenge them and help them grow in the role”’
Our CIO has set a target within ISG’s Strategic Plan to employ at least 500 students over the course of each academic year.
How can the impact of this work be measured?
More than 300 students have worked with us so far this year. Because ISG is responsible for all the digital services across libraries, IT, learning technologies and study spaces in the university we are in a perfect position to offer flexible employment to our students.
Students are also the main consumers of our services. By employing them to work on projects that affect them we benefit from a rich source of productivity and innovation to help shape and improve these services.
We want each student to get the most out of their work experience with us, so we collaborated with our Careers Service and HR colleagues to create a ‘digital student guidebook’ and professional development resources to support students balancing employment alongside their studies. Students can also complete an ‘Edinburgh Award’ – a wrap-around reflective learning framework that helps students to articulate their work experience. We can measure the impact of our student employment initiatives through the ways in which the students reflect on the value of their experience.
We support a positive employment experience for our student workers and encourage them to create LinkedIn profiles to evidence their skills and to engage with their peers through promotional videos and blogging about their work experience. Every student who works with us should leave able to describe an experience of working in a professional environment, on a meaningful project, with real responsibilities, and have a good non-academic referee to add to their CV.
Impact can also be seen in the work being done to generate a sustainable pipeline of talent. Giving individuals the platform they need to excel is critical to our long-term success and also helps us make a vital contribution to our community. Providing work experience and supporting employability empowers our students while building a healthy pipeline of talent, which we hope we may benefit from in the future.
The longer-term impact of the work or initiative on its staff and/or the performance of the organisation.
The longer- term impact on our organisation can be seen several ways:
· The experience we are gaining in developing our scheme in response to feedback from our student workers has led to improvement in practice. We have a staff network for interns and managers to share experiences and learning.
· Our projects and services improve as a result of the skills, creativity, input and ideas brought by the students.
· Our understanding of our users is improved by the perspective that our students bring to the workplace. Their outside perspective is useful in terms of challenging and broadening our thinking.
· Our student workers are now a growing group of ‘ISG Alumni’ who have worked with us and may promote or choose our organisation in the future.
· Our number of student workers is increasing year on year as more managers welcome them into their teams.
· Some of our student workers are now returners who return to work with us each year in different roles.
· We have been able to appoint a number of students into full time roles following their placements and internships. They have become a loyal group of workers who identify us as their employer of choice.
How is the work linked to the organisation’s strategy and achievement of its objectives?
The University is one of the largest local employers, covering multiple sectors and job roles. The University of Edinburgh has a Youth and Student Employment Strategy 2017–2021, which presents our whole-institution approach to employability skills.
The University is committed to long-term goals in creating, promoting and delivering opportunities that enhance the employability of our students. The University recognises the shortage of highly skilled data, digital and IT workers and is therefore safeguarding for the future and building a sustainable talent pipeline, which addresses current and future skills requirements. In addition, this gives our students the platform they need to excel, which is critical to our long-term success, our competitive advantage and also helps us make a vital contribution to our community. This is particularly important for sectors with national skills shortages such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and this is an opportunity to ‘grow our own’ in these areas.
The National Student Survey (NSS) and Edinburgh Student Experience Survey (ESES) results have highlighted areas for improvement in recent years. Developing more student employment opportunities is one way to improve the student experience and expands the employment prospects of our graduates. On-campus employment offers students an opportunity to work with the University to shape the delivery of services that directly affect the student community.
What was innovative or outstanding about the work and how can that be demonstrated?
As an employer within a university we are afforded unique opportunities to engage our student body, including delivering learning technologies used in curriculum, improving their study spaces and access to research.
Students are the main consumers of our services. By employing them to work on projects that affect them we benefit from a rich source of productivity and innovation to help shape and improve these services.
In a city filled with tech employers, we might not always be an obvious choice for students wanting to work in the IT sector, so we continuously look for interesting and innovative projects and service enhancement activities to attract the best talent to our organisation.
By empowering our students they become champions and ambassadors for our work, which brings business benefits as we strive to roll-out new technologies and the cultural changes associated with these different ways of working. Specific recent examples include contributing to work on the opening up of our educational resources, part of a worldwide movement to promote and support sustainable educational development, and as champions for the roll-out of lecture recording, bringing a student perspective to our communications, training and project activities.
How could other institutions or IT professionals learn from this work and use it in their own organisation?
Universities are very well placed to employ students in flexible ways, but often we assume that these will be in fairly low skill jobs in our shops, bars and residences. In exploring what digital, library and IT jobs there may be on campus we have opened up a variety of roles and reaped the benefit of a vibrant new group of staff with new ideas for our organisation. Our students are amongst some of the best and brightest in the world. We are really lucky to have a pool of such talent and creativity available to us.
The work we have done in Information Services at Edinburgh is easily transferable to other institutions and there is a sector imperative now to build and grow talent in IT organisations. The competition for new graduates is fierce and the investment in students now yields return for the future. Students bring a new diversity to our workforce and contribute to a change in workplace culture enhancing our ways of working across intergenerational teams.
Some of our key learnings and tips are:
· Be targeted: writing tailored communications for different audiences is time-consuming, but really effective.
· Be distinctive: with so many opportunities out there, be clear about what makes your organisation different.
· Get face-to-face: digital works but students really value chatting to employers on campus.
· First impressions count: students are sensitive to image and want to work for organisations that wear their ‘inclusivity-heart’ on their sleeve, so your reps on campus should reflect this.
· Students listen to students: peer word of mouth is a powerful tool, encourage your student ambassadors to tell their friends!
As part of the PlayFair Steps equality and diversity initiative in ISG we have been looking at our staff demographics and considering our recruitment practices.
There is many a cliche to be heard around how difficult it is to recruit women into tech jobs. Some of it is true, some of it is lack of imagination. As a large tech employer in this city we compete for the best talent against other tech employers in the city. The competition for new graduates, skilled software engineers, designers, excellent IT managers and creative thinkers is hot*.
As an organisation we recognise that we need to improve the diversity in our teams to improve our insights and creativity, to draw upon a diverse set of ideas and experiences and to model for our own students the world in which they might want to work.
One of the things we’ve done is to start employing student interns. Dozens of ’em. It’s been really invigorating. All the teams in LTW have benefitted and I am personally very much enjoying having the most up-to-date thinking and input from the interns in my office. Dominique works with me on my gender equality plans and Polina works with me on digital marketing and recruitment. These two projects are linked. If we want to get more women into our organisation- particularly at senior levels- we need them to apply for our jobs in the first place.
I am not certain that as a tech employer we are very well served by our recruitment strategy currently. We have no specific graduate careers track in ISG, no ‘return to work after a career break’ initiatives and we tend only to advertise in ‘university places’ such as our own HR pages and jobs.ac.uk**. I’ve never seen a twitter feed or anything similar pushing out our jobs (other than mine).
HR sites, and even jobs.ac.uk rely on the premise that a person wants to work in a university first and that they’ll be looking for a job and your ad will happen to be there at that moment. I’m not sure that is the market we most need to be in. I think we need to be digitally transforming our recruitment approach and reaching passive talent*** while they happen to be browsing.
I have asked Polina to investigate LinkedIn.
LinkedIn has company pages, where employers can gather followers and networks and get their news and jobs in front of people who already have jobs and are busy networking in their professional field. Looking at Linkedin I note that as well as the University news pages, our business school is already using linkedin for their recruitment. Polina is a business school student so she knows her stuff. My hope is that we will figure out how best to use Linkedin in ISG to get our adverts to new eyes using linked people, friends, friends of friends, networks, news, alumni, students and interested tech followers to show them what a great place this is to work.
**it turns out that 15% of working professionals are scanning their network at any given time, and 45% are totally open to considering a new opportunity when approached by a recruiter. I know this. It happens to me a lot. In addition to the 25% who say they are actively looking for a new job, 85% of the global workforce are your oyster.
*** I’m also having trouble finding anyone who has any stats about how many views or shares our ads get. What I am finding is some anxiety amongst our HR professionals that I may be about to disrupt the status quo (again).