«S u e Cl e g g J a cq u e li n e Steve nso n J o h n W ill ot t Acknowledgements This project has depended on the support of many people, to whom we ...»
(Student 23, Male, 27, White British, Music Production, other HEI, not 1st generation) Some of these students were also in the advantageous position of not having to work, allowing them to be very selective about those activities they chose to
My late Gran left quite a large inheritance and my Grandma’s got quite a lot which has helped because some students may have wanted to do what I have done but couldn’t have done it because 20 to 25 hours a week unpaid work for some students would kill then, as they don’t have the, I have been lucky that I have got the financial backing to do that. So for me obviously its constant good quality teaching experience and most nights I am going home and making notes of that lesson was good, I enjoyed that, that was okay, I practically could have done it differently, that sort of thing and obviously that sort of thought process is setting me up very well for the future.
(Student 20, Male, 20, Asian British (Pakistani), Islam, family home, Law, sixth form college, 1st generation) Overall, these students very clearly recognised the contribution that participation in ECA could contribute to their future employment in a specific field. They had clearly researched future careers and had gained information
from family, friends, current employers and lecturers:
There are a lot of people that I know on my course don’t go to the lectures and they don’t take registers in lectures but they do in tutorials so I always go to the tutorials, but I mean I’d hate for them to change it and make it compulsory to go to the lectures cause it would affect me working and then I definitely think that the work should come first in that respect cause your learning, am learning a lot more at work with regards to my course than I am coming to university sometimes.
(Student 10, Male, 20, White British, Architectural Technology, FE college, 1st generation, part-time working in an architect’s office) They always say the best degree is a 2:1 with experience, not a first without and I think that’s probably more important to teaching than anything else, because on the PGCE you go through the different perspectives, which are very interesting to see, but the actual requirement of a 2:1 is at the bottom of the page, everything else above it is experience in this and experience in that. You sort of get down all the way and right at the bottom it’s like oh you need to have a 2:1, which is quite an interesting thing to see, so you can tell very quickly what they prioritise, almost more than the actual qualification you have got to prove you have got the experience.
(Student 20, Male, 20, Asian British (Pakistani), Islam, family home, Law, sixth form college, 1st generation) Through their contacts and the subsequent knowledge gained, these students were keenly aware that employers are placing increasing emphasis on the development of a ‘personality package’ (Brown & Hesketh, 2004, p. 35) to the extent that “the self is now a key economic resource; ‘who you are’ matters as much as ‘what you know’” (ibid) and were participating in ECA designed to build
this personality package:
The qualifications are important in getting you that interview but it is your extra-curricular stuff which is important in getting you through that interview and getting you the job... I mean all my family like my parents, my brother, my elder sister, at the minute they are all directors or have been directors of companies, and very keen hiring people and it is from what they have explained to me, like the current situation, explains why you have to certainly be this way, and they say it is not a fair system but it is the way the system works... I would say I have a key advantage over several members just from the benefits of having successful family.
(Student 34, Male, 21, White British, History & Politics, sixth form college, not 1st generation) The Higher Education Academy 66 However, what makes this group different to the Employment Builders (below) is that while this group included students of all ages, it was dominated by those who had been working, even if only for a short time, prior to coming to university.
They were without exception living away from home and did not have any (mentioned) caring responsibilities:
I’ve worked in the casino for 12 years you know. It’s pap, but when I look at the things that incorporated when I worked on the cruise ship, I had to go on stage at the beginning of each cruise and introduce myself and welcome people to the casino. I had to teach lessons...
and carry first aid so when I look at all those things together actually there is quite a lot there that I could offer in another way but it’s taken me a while I think to realise that these are qualities that can be used... actually not everybody can keep 30 chattering Americans together.
(Student 51, Female, 32, White British, Media & Popular Culture, FE college, not 1st generation) A further characteristic of this group was that it comprised students who were changing career: police to teaching, croupier to media and advertising, service sector work to sports coaching and so on.
These students were supported by the institution, or individual staff within the institution – either by facilitating activities within the curriculum that would develop future careers or by undertaking a supportive role outside of the
... one of my lecturers has been mega supportive she proofread every chapter as I wrote it... she has been a legend, and so I finished this first draft and so it is like well I want to get a bit of advice if I am getting it published and just advice before I go into the second draft. And so then I was told, advised to join a writers circle... then having written the first draft of the book my lecturer said that my characters where really good but they are a bit, the two of them were very similar so maybe I wanted to do some cameos and develop them... and now I am properly into short stories and I can’t, well this lecturer is reading as many of my short stories as possible in her own time of her own volition just because she is kind.
(Student 2, Female, 23, White British, English Literature, FE College, not 1st generation) They have a lot of people coming in and talking like industry [PR] professionals coming in and talking to you. Although it is not always direct a lot of it is essentially to make it show you that how to get a job in the industry, so they are trying to sort of say this is how you do it and obviously if you do these things you will get a good job and so instinctively you will you know have got it instilled to you that employability is the important thing, so I think yes so yes very much so... they do push... personal skills so like communication skills and confidence and things like that and so they paint a very accurate picture of the things you need to do and sort of the features you may need to have or work on anyway to be in this career.
The Higher Education Academy 67 (Student 42, Male, 21, White British, PR, sixth form college, 1st generation) The Employment Builder The Employment Builders were also clearly present across the interviews. They were more numerous than the Career Climbers, but the messages they were giving out, and the formation of their identities, were weaker. This group comprised those students who were involved in similar activities to the Career Climbers, but their participation in ECA was designed to build knowledge, skills and experience that would facilitate access to the labour market in general, not
necessarily within a specific field:
... it looks good on a CV it looks good on a university application like it is one of the things that you highlight when you come to university, what you have done in your spare time and things like that... and also it has been noted when I have been for job interviews recently like being the captain of the club and the treasurer of the same club last year, it is positions of responsibility so being involved in those things come off in a really positive light definitely, I don’t think it can, I have never know it to be negative yet.
(Student 7, Male, 20, White British, Graphics, FE college, not 1st generation) Like the Career Climbers, they were aware of what employers wanted, i.e.
which ECA are most valued by them. They were also aware that information on a CV can be tailored to match what employers are looking for from potential
I think sport and other physical activities would look good. Paid work, volunteering definitely, I would say mainly all of them would look good. They are generally interested in everything, aren’t they? Even what we do at home and stuff, domestic stuff, that can all tie into a CV... I would probably mention a bit of everything. Because that would come under responsibilities and stuff and I think it can tie in, can’t it, the things that you do at home. Like being organised for instance, you could say you have experience of being organised because if you have a child, there are things you have to do at home.
(Student 36, Female, 26, Mixed White & Black Caribbean, Christian, Psychology, FE college, 1st generation) In addition the Employment Builders recognised, to a greater or lesser extent, the skills they had developed through ECA and what they had to offer to
Obviously with my job where I work within a team you can’t work alone, you know, you have to work as a team in a café otherwise you just don’t, nothing functions right. And obviously you have to understand people, what are people’s strong points and what they are good at and what they are not so good at and obviously you have to work towards, you know work with that and around that... And know how, and obviously be able to, would also be able to sort of like give people directions as well as not just being, you know, without being bossy.
The Higher Education Academy 68 (Student 45, Female, 20, White British, Roman Catholic, Human Geography, sixth form college, 1st generation) I think that is all the activities [casual work such as bartending] that I have done and the amount of people I have met... I think it has made me a more tolerant person, even though I was pretty slack and tolerant anyway... which was kind of a good thing and a bad thing. I think I have become more steadfast in my beliefs and my ideas of things and how things work a bit more, shouldn’t work like that kind of thing. But it has not really developed any like hands-on skills, it is more just the confidence as well definitely.
(Student 7, Male, 20, White British, Graphics, FE college, not 1st generation) These students had also been supported by schools, families and/or the institution to understand the value of their participation in ECA and how that could enhance their employability, but they were more initially haphazard in their approach than the Career Climbers. Given adequate support and guidance they soon began to recognise the skills they had that would be valorised by employers and they also recognised the transferability of skills developed
through their ECA participation:
... at the beginning when I never knew how to do CVs I included every single extra-curricular activity I did from dance to volunteering, the German club, all of that was quarter of a page when I originally did it. As my work experience started building up, like paid work experience and everything, we were advised not to add too much of the irrelevant stuff because they said that for a lot of these firms volunteering and stuff looks really good, but for paid work, work experience, they are like hmm you know.
(Student 13, Female, 21, Other Black background, Seventh Day Adventist, house or flat on own, Law, high school in USA, not 1st generation)... in one like the seminar we have they gave us a York Council application form for this job that was going. And they said read through it and tick what you can do and I was thinking I bet I can’t do anything you know on this... what have I got to give to this employer but as we went through it there was like team-working skills being able to work to a deadline, you know basically really simple things as you broke it down and you went through it together all us thought yes we could all apply for this job, and actually have a good chance of getting it.