It is 5pm on the day of the University of Bradford’s Summer Experience Awards & Networking Evening. Speakers are booked, the buffet laid out, name badges await collection, the photographer is ready and waiting, and balloons reach for the ceiling tugging at their weights. Everything is in place for a fabulous celebration of the work students have produced for their internship hosts.
The event is the culmination of the 2018 Summer Experience programme, an intense project with over 250 students competing for approximately 65 vacancies involving three months of ardent activity by the team to identify opportunities, process CVs and organise interviews.
Besides the administration of the selection process there is the task of engaging students, supporting them to produce effective CVs and preparing them for their first ever employment interviews. A few months later, the annual Awards & Networking Evening is when we get to showcase the fantastic talent that they have demonstrated in the workplace.
Students and employers start to arrive, and the room fills quickly. Excited chatter rises as many of the interns see their internship providers for the first time since the last day of their placement. Guest speakers – Bradford Council’s Strategy Manager for Employment & Skills, our DVC Academic, a participating employer and a student – arrive and mingle with the students and employers involved in this year’s programme.
Soon we move to the Auditorium for the presentation of awards. Our speakers are appreciative of both sponsoring organisations’ support for the programme and students’ efforts, reminding us of the importance of graduates to the local economy, and themselves what it was like for them at earlier stages in their own careers.
As we move into the awards ceremony, anticipation silences the room. Winners and highly commended are announced for each award – the result of long deliberations by the judges over nominations from employers and students. As winners are invited on stage to collect their award from our DVC, a pen picture of their achievements is read out to their fellow students and colleagues gathered in the audience – all are remarkable and many have far excelled the expectations of their hosts. Some make massive savings to their host business or devise new ways of working, others perform research tasks that are beyond our comprehension. Students who have never worked before blossom and become valued contributors to the business. All of them have learnt so much about themselves. The Awards provide the final feel good factor for all involved and build a sense of achievement in participating students as they move into their new academic year.
Over the past four years, through the Summer Experience programme, almost 300 students have benefited from paid work experience during the summer enabling them to develop valuable employability skills. A number of these students have continued with their summer internship provider as part-time members of staff or returned to work in the organisation full-time upon graduation, such is the impact they made as an intern. Overall analysis shows that the graduate employment rate of students who have undertaken internships as part of the Summer Experience programme is significantly higher than the overall University statistic. This is a programme where truly everyone is a winner.
Alison Hedley, Employer & Placement Services Manager, University of Bradford