Top graduate employers are backing a University of Bristol scheme to help improve students’ chances of getting a job in the increasingly competitive job market.
The Bristol PLuS Awards have already seen hundreds of students at Bristol University complete the scheme, which is a formal way to recognise the achievements of those who devote time to activities outside their studies.
It is seen as a valuable addition to a graduate’s CV and is endorsed by 17 top graduate employers, including the NHS, Airbus, Rolls Royce and Cancer Research UK.
Students who sign up for the award are expected to complete 50 hours of work experience, either as a volunteer, in a part-time job or an internship.
They must also attend four workshops on employability skills, including interview techniques, take part in an intensive skills-related activity and write a summary of the skills they have gained.
Exceptional efforts will gain a Bristol PLuS Outstanding Award, which involves a presentation to a panel of employers, academics and Careers Service staff. Students must be able to demonstrate high level skills including managing people and resources, project management and commercial awareness in order to achieve this.
Those who perform best on the sports field can take the Sporting PLuS Award which fosters employer-friendly sports accomplishments.
This year sees the addition of the Bristol PLuS Sustainability Award, which encourage participants to devote 25 of the required 50 hours to activities with a positive environmental, social or ethical impact.
Popular graduate recruiters Ernst and Young and Price Waterhouse Coopers have been involved in delivering Intensive Skills Days to give students guidance in leadership, communication and teamwork.
The scheme, launched two years ago, has seen students clock up their 50 hours through a variety of activities – work experience, charity fundraising, organising sporting events or voluntary work in the community.
Caring for a friend or relative is also recognised as a means of gaining valuable employability skills which ensures that part-time or mature students can also get recognition for their efforts outside of their academic commitments.
Last year, 812 students registered for the award – an increase of 75 per cent on the first year.
History student Laura Webster achieved the Bristol PLuS Award last year because she wanted her CV to stand out from the crowd.
She said: "For me, the PLuS Award provided motivation to look into some of the extra-curricular opportunities Bristol has to offer and it was as a result of this that I found an interest in coaching and leading sport. I would definitely recommend applying to anyone.”
Laura completed the Level 2 Sports Leader Award, which involved learning to run activities sessions for children aged between 7 and 9 years, and complemented this by volunteering at events such as the Bristol Festival of Sport, a three-day event to encourage wider participation in sport among secondary school pupils.
She is currently setting up the University’s first rounders society and will be working towards her Bristol PLuS Outstanding Award this year.
Sarah Whittam, Career Advisor at the University, said: "It’s been really encouraging to see the rise in the number of students taking part. They see it as a worthwhile scheme to complement their studies and help them to get on the career ladder.
"Employers are much more demanding than they used to be. They want more than a degree, they want evidence of life and work experience and the Bristol PLuS Awards are designed to formalise these extra-curricular achievements.”