It hardly seems possible that a whole year has passed since last Christmas. We’ve kept ourselves busy in 2021 with new initiatives, new staff members, and a new way of working. This year saw a good deal of change within the Service, some exciting as we welcomed staff members, but some sad as we said goodbye to colleagues who retired.
What an interesting year it was! Our Aberdeen Employability Boost Award made a comeback in February, May, and October/November. We decided to extend the most recent one to seven weeks long – running 35 live events and awarding 205 Awards in one month is not a job for the faint-hearted. In light of the challenging year our graduating students faced, and inspired by the success of the virtual internship, we decided to create our own week-long work experience opportunity we named the ABDN Grad Challenge. Aberdeen Football Club, Aberdeen City Council and TechX provided the challenges, categorised under the banners of inclusive, international and sustainable. Over the course of the week students worked in teams to come up with a solution to each problem, with a winner for each category and an overall winner announced by John Barrow, Dean for Employability and Entrepreneurship and our favourite honorary member of the Careers dream team. For an overview of the jam-packed week check out this video.
Our Aberdeen Internship and InternPlus programmes saw 22 students hired within University Professional Services, and 2021 was the year we launched our internships and volunteering programmes, increasing numbers of opportunities while maximising the value of the experience for students. We were grateful to Santander Universities for their employability funding towards internships and the University of Aberdeen Development Trust for bursary funding to support student volunteering. In the pipeline is increased support for students seeking part time work and the opportunity for students who are working part time to participate in the programme.
We were very sad to say goodbye to Lesley and Sandi after a combined 51 years working for the University (10 for Lesley and 41 for Sandi!). Sandi and Lesley retired during lockdown, which proved challenging to arrange restriction-compliant celebrations. We had a virtual afternoon tea for Lesley, followed by an epic tag-team paired walk for Sandi at Westburn Park. Our new Graduate Trainees, Matthew and Ellen, have proved a stellar addition to the team. Starting at the beginning of October they’ve had their work cut out for them as we figured out the hybrid office space and embarked on one of the busiest winter terms we’ve ever seen (anyone else?). We were delighted to also hire four student assistants, Rory, Ani, Rocky and Adam who have been working hard on marketing initiatives and learning the ropes on the CV/application feedback sessions. We were disappointed not to win the AGCAS (Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Service) Awards for which we were shortlisted – significant contribution (Sandi), best newcomer (Julia) and best team contribution to employability. Still, on the bright side, we made the national shortlist of three categories against 145 other universities across the UK, a fantastic achievement in itself.
This year has required us all to be that bit more resilient when we have not been able to meet, or we have had to make do with online when we wanted to be together – such a trial – but at least we have lots of examples of resilience to offer employers at interview! We were thrilled to be able to offer in-person appointments this semester and even one in-person Alumni event. We all appreciate being back in the office collaborating and catching up in person, especially on Wednesdays when our star baker Regina provides us with sustenance. December has seen salted caramel fudge, a homemade Stollen and a full-blown Christmas cake! Her baked goods are second to none. We’ve also been enjoying some sweet treats from Qatar courtesy of Ghina. If there’s one positive to be taken from the near two years of online working, it’s that we have been able to work with Ghina every day (even if she does make us all jealous with talks of endless sunshine). We’ve been collaborating closely with our colleagues on the Qatar campus, and students there can now take part in the STAR Award, the Leadership Academy, the Career Mentoring Programme, the Aberdeen Employability Boost Award and the Careers Ambassador Programme. Student collaboration has been a great success.
Over the past year we’ve found ourselves collaborating with colleagues closer to home, too, working with other members of University staff to ensure careers guidance for students at every level. We have had several alumni come back to talk to our students about their career paths and share top tips, lessons learned and words of encouragement with our students and recent graduates. We’ve seen some fantastic contributions to co-curricular programmes from our employer partners and organisations, both local and international. From those returning for another year of the STAR Award and Leadership Academy to new connections who have facilitated some fantastic events, we look forward to 2022 and continuing the conversation to ensure up-to-date, relevant information to support our job-searching students. The North East of Scotland Careers Fair, run in partnership with RGU and the University of Dundee, saw the attendance of 78 organisations and a total of 232 students at this virtual event. And quite the admin task it was! We also saw a member of the Careers team represented at COP26. Julia went down in the first week to learn about the skills and experience required of students moving into the world of work. She made some great connections and has shared her take on the experience in a series of articles for the University.
We worked hard this year but found time to play, too. For some that was literally, in the University Concert Band, Con Anima Choir and at home on the piano. For others it was running, golfing, walking, paddle boarding and kayaking – you can’t say we’re not an active bunch! Sadly, our exotic holidays to places like the States, the Galapagos Islands and Budapest, plus work trips to China and Australia, had to give way to even more exotic places like Shetland, Perth, Devon, Leicester and sunny Aberdeen of course! Kate went furthest and made it to Turkey as a consolation for not getting to New York to run the marathon. Throughout the year Ghina in Qatar remained an on-screen figure, and we hope she’ll be able to make her promised trip to Aberdeen in 2022. Over the dark winter months of lockdown, we managed to stay cosied up with our favourite sweet treats whilst sharing the careers message far and wide. Not sure what we’re on about? Check out our latest marketing video.
As we look forward to some well-deserved time off this winter break, we are proud of all we’ve achieved in 2021. Never ones to sit still for long though, 2022 promises to bring a whole host of new activities as we look to expand our current provision and get started on new projects – stay tuned! But for now, it’s mince pies and mulled wine and the prospect of two well-received extra rest days (thank you to the University for those).
So that’s our news. We trust that you are all well and do remember, if you are in our area, please pop in – the kettle is always on!
All of us here at the Careers and Employability Service