Ensuring students got the best possible employability experience during lockdown has earned De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) two nominations in the prestigious WhatUni Student Choice Awards 2021.
More than 100 nominations from 55 different universities were received in this year’s awards which are the only ones to be judged by a panel of prospective and current university students.
They aim to recognise the incredible work being carried out by universities over the past year to support students during the Covid-19 pandemic – made extra challenging for DMU as the city of Leicester remained in lockdown for longer than anywhere else in the country.
DMU’s careers and graduate success team DMU Works acted immediately to support students’ career success and employers needing extra help as lockdown shifted core activities online.
When lockdown was announced in March 2020, DMU quickly contacted and supported students on placements and employers to help them move work experience online. Of the 626 students on internships and year-long placements, just two were unable to carry on due to lockdown.
Careers fairs were moved online with students offered bite-sized bookable appointments with employers and a package of pre- and post-event information.
A total of 1,823 students attended a virtual employer showcase and just under 500 had one-to-one appointments with employers.
It scaled up its digital offer, bringing in a live chat function so students could chat to careers staff now working remotely and launched a new interview simulator programme, which allowed students to practise, record and watch back interviews as many times as they liked. The team also introduced CV360, an AI-based tool that ‘read’ draft CVs and produced feedback based on methods used by graduate recruiters.
DMU also supported the wider business community, which in Leicester is predominantly small businesses. Within three weeks of the first lockdown, DMU Works had matched students with digital skills to SMEs needing extra support to help them as small businesses adapted to an online environment.
DMU is among 20 universities to have reached the final stages of the competition with nominations in the Digital Innovation and Graduate Outcomes categories. The winners will be announced on June 22.
Richard Bowden, Graduate Employment Programmes Manager, said: “What’s so good about the WhatUni awards is that they are voted on by students.
“We’re very pleased to be nominated and I think the secret of our success has been the resilience of our students and the strength and flexibility shown by our employer partners.”
Digital Strategy manager Phil Curtis added: “We are delighted to be shortlisted for this award. It is down to the hard work that he entire team from DMU Works has put into this digital way of working and provided an outstanding service for our students throughout an incredibly challenging time.
“It is great to be recognised for digital innovation, which is one of the key themes for our DMU Works digital strategy, but what makes this shortlisting even more satisfying is that the judging panel is made up of students.”
Each category winner will not only receive recognition for their hard work, resilience, and determination across this challenging academic year, but will also receive £10,000 of student bursaries of £2,000 each.
A spokesperson for WhatUni said: “A nomination alone is a fantastic achievement and demonstrates real recognition from the student body for all the effort institutions have put into their higher education experience.”