Gaining the competitive EDGE

Shauna McCloy (Head of Employability, Ulster University) and Stephanie Gowdy (Senior Student Recruitment Manager, PwC)

Ulster University’s popular employability award is being refreshed to support the Five & Fifty focus on developing student employability skills. The Ulster EDGE Award, sponsored by PwC, allows full and part-time undergraduates to complete a variety of extra and co-curricular activities alongside their normal studies.

Participation gives students a competitive edge when it comes to applying for graduate jobs, as they can show potential employers clear evidence of their competency across a variety of areas.

Mark Lawson, a BSc Hons Psychology graduate from Coleraine campus, was the overall winner in the 2016-17 EDGE Excel Award. He says the programme gave him a variety of employability skills.

 

“Everywhere is so competitive right now,” he explained. “Employers want more than a degree, so EDGE will definitely help you stand out and gain the skills you need for employment. My communication, teamworking and leadership skills were greatly enhanced thanks to EDGE.”

 

The EDGE Award is currently split into four categories with over 150 activities for students to choose from. But the refreshed offering will see these renamed to more clearly demonstrate the range of the activities on offer and to help students make more informed choices about their career development.

The revised categories are:

  • Employability Modules and Skills Development
  • Civic Contribution
  • Work Experience, Placements and Internships
  • Subject-specific Opportunities
  • Developing a Global Vision
  • Student’s Union Activities, Roles and Societies
  • Employer-led and other external programmes

These updates to the EDGE Award reflect the focus on confident careers and raising ambitions as part of the Five & Fifty vision. Shauna McCloy, Head of Employability, said the programme will do this in various ways, by creating opportunities for developing academic excellence and providing structured support for exploring and fine tuning personal and professional skills, through its accredited activities.

 

“The EDGE Award also helps to develop students’ global vision through international placement and study abroad experiences, and via the global ambassador scheme,” she explained.

 

“It further recognises the value of, and gives accreditation to, volunteering and other activities that provide a positive civic contribution, which is so central to our ‘Five & Fifty’ plan. Students also have the chance to develop meaningful networks with employers, alumni and local communities, which will be invaluable to them as they start their careers.”

 

Corporate partner and sponsor of the EDGE Award, PwC, is keen to support the initiative as a way of supporting and encouraging career-ready graduates throughout their university experience.

Senior Student Recruitment Manager at PwC, Stephanie Gowdy, believes extra and co-curricular activities are incredibly important from an employer’s perspective, particularly in a labour market which continues to demand more of our graduates. Stephanie explained,

 

“While the importance of obtaining a degree still remains, skills that go beyond academia are essential to build the gap between higher education and the workplace,” she told Insight.


“EDGE offers students the opportunity to recognise and develop desirable skills such as leadership, resilience and commercial awareness. Being career-ready starts from day one of university and the recruitment landscape now determines this as more employers place emphasis on Early Identification strategies to attract talent as early in their academic career as possible.

 

“Programmes such as internships and business placements are essential to developing key skills, giving students a taste of employment and often lead to a graduate role.” 

 

Emer Nugent, studying for a BA Hons in Irish with Marketing at Magee campus, said she learned a lot from completing the EDGE Excel Award.

 

“I wanted to show employers that I’m motivated to do extra activities beyond my degree, and I was keen to ensure that the skills I developed would be added to my CV,” she said.

 

“EDGE Excel gave me so much confidence, especially the tutoring in schools programme which I participated in twice, as I enjoyed it so much and it gave me a real insight into confirming my future career in teaching.”

 

Also showcasing the talent of Ulster University students, the last of 5 successful Graduate and Placement Fairs to place today (Tuesday 17th October). Over 170 organisations participated in the series of events, showcasing thousands of opportunities for graduate, placement and internship roles. Shauna added,

 

“These fairs are a dynamic way to bring a huge breadth of career opportunity to our students and to enable their talents to meet market demand. Programmes such as the EDGE award really do help our students to stand out as highly capable and assured potential employees.”

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