National Teachers and Advisers Conference 2016; University of Manchester

So, I attended my first National Teachers and Advisers Conference this week at the University of Manchester (UOM).

An enjoyable well organised day all round which is a real credit to the university staff and the team of student ambassadors, or ‘purple people’ as Mike Gibbons, ‘Director of Student Recruitment and International Development’ humourlessly referred to them as!

The day kicked off with a welcome speech by Mike which included a video clip of Lemn Sissay who takes up his place as the new Chancellor of the University on the 1st August.

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a lover of inspirational quotes. Hence the new quote on the wall of our new Careers Service at my workplace; ‘’Choose a career you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.’’

Therefore, Lemn’s chosen quote for his work at UOM resonated with me, especially my own attitude when studying hard for my A-Levels, which I’m proud to say, paid off;

‘’Reach for the top of the tree and you may get to the first branch but reach for the stars and you’ll get to the top of the tree.  My primary aim is to inspire and be inspired’’ Lemn Sissay.

After Mike concluded we heard from the lovely James Thompson; ‘Vice President for Social Responsibility’ and I learnt that Universities are actually charitable organisations with social responsibility being a key priority: sorry if this is common knowledge! It was clear that UOM take this very seriously.

There were a number of workshops on offer from ‘Physics and Philosophy’ to ‘Higher Education for looked after children and care-leavers’ to ‘Developing research and independent study skills from day one’

I’ve provided a breakdown of my experiences and key learning points from some of the workshops which were allocated to me;


It’s a small world: studying overseas as part of a UK degree

If you could have your time again what would you do differently? I’m sure this question was running through everyone’s mind in this session.

I was delighted to hear that there are only around 4 programmes of study at UOM where students can’t study abroad for a semester or year. There is also a dedicated team of staff to help students plan and organise their trip.

It was great to hear from a number of students talking positively about their experiences. It was clear that all the student’s felt their experiences had benefited them academically, personally and professionally.

There was Joe, a History student, who had studied at an Australian university for a semester and also had the chance to volunteer for their national youth charity, which he felt had been a welcomed addition to his stay and had played a part in him being offered a place on a postgraduate journalism course in London. When Joe’s bank account failed and it took him 3 weeks to set another up, he was particularly feeling the ‘personal benefits’ of his experience!

Sarah and Claudia, both science students, had spent time working in their field in a Florida laboratory and felt that they were able to translate theory into practice much more easily which in turn had motivated them to study harder. Claudia was particularly pleased to find employers in the science field who also had creative flairs and interests such as photography and music, actually existed!

What was stressed throughout the session was that these opportunities were open to anyone, regardless of family income. Tuition fees for semesters spent abroad were reduced by 85% or possibly more for a year spent abroad. Bursaries from your home and partner university may be available as well as a higher maintenance loan, making it more affordable for lower income families.

I now just need to win the lottery so I can enrol onto UOM’s Psychology degree who have a partnership with a University in Madrid; a place close to my heart!

I also found out about the Go International website which provides information to students about accessing these opportunities in UK universities and colleges;

I will definitely be advising students to find out from their chosen universities about options for overseas study!


The right choice: how to support and advise students about higher education

It was really good to share ideas and resources with other career professionals in this session.

It was clear that Uni Stats and the Which university website were well used resources, along with UCAS.

During a group discussion about the kinds of resources for students that we felt were lacking, I reported that I felt students would benefit from a deeper understanding of course content to aid better decision making. It’s one thing looking through a website’s module titles of a Criminology degree for example, but I feel students need to delve deeper. What kinds of projects and reading do the modules involve? What goes on inside a typical lecture? Students almost need to be a ‘fly on the wall’ here in terms of recorded lectures and seeing student work in action. Wouldn’t it be great if an online resource like this was developed!

I also found out that the UCAS website includes a Myers Briggs test, which I can’t wait to check out!

Plenary Session; Graduate Employability

A Q and A session by Mike Gibbons: ‘Director of Student Recruitment and International Development’ alongside;

  • Rachel Pearson; Manager at KPMG
  • Liam Whitehouse and Bethany Smith; UOM graduates currently on graduate schemes with KPMG and Premier Inn

It was noted that telephone interviews are increasingly being used by graduate employers to sift through large numbers of initial applicants.

Here are Rachel’s top tips for telephone interviews;

  • make sure you give the correct phone number
  • ensure your mobile phone is fully charged
  • plan to be somewhere you know you have good signal
  • be in a calm, relaxed and private place
  • expect pauses just like you would in any kind of conversation
  • take your time to answer the questions
  • no keyboard tapping
  • remember the interviewer will be taking notes: it’s a legal requirement
  • take it as seriously as a you would a face to face interview.

Rachel shared some of the telephone interview faux passes she had encountered;

‘’I once arranged to call someone for an interview who was clearly in a bar. I could hear the football in the background and the clinking of glasses. Needless to say they didn’t get another call from me’’

‘’Please no tapping of the keyboard in the background. You’re obviously googling the answers!’’

Liam and Beth also had pearls of wisdom to impart, from a recent graduate’s perspective when discussing how extra-curricular activities add value to job applications;

Beth, who is currently on the graduate management scheme at Premier Inn says;

‘’I’m involved with recruiting for our graduate scheme now and we are increasingly looking at applicants and asking ‘what did they do to build up their career in hospitality whilst at college, as well as in university’’.

Liam is currently on the graduate scheme at KPMG and says;

‘’Get involved with extra- curricular activities which you love and are passionate about. This passion will shine through in an interview’.

I’m already looking forward to next year’s conference!


About Francesca Turner

Francesca has had experience of working with wide ranging client groups as a Careers Adviser for Connexions and the National Careers Service. She has a Post Graduate Diploma in Career Guidance and Development and a passion for personal development and writing. Currently employed as a Careers Service Team Leader in a Further Education college.

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