Engaging with employers at the University of Liverpool

Author: Diane Appleton


This paper presents initiatives recently introduced at the University of Liverpool to engage employers in a range of activities in the School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies. The paper shows how employers have contributed to the School’s employability agenda outside of a formal career management module. It also demonstrates the importance of a partnership between an academic department and a careers service in order to develop and maintain links with employers.

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Table of contents

Languages in Higher Education Conference 2008: transitions and connections

This paper was originally presented at our conference: transitions and connections, 8-9 July 2008.

The School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies at the University of Liverpool offers a range of courses covering French, German, Hispanic, Italian, and Latin American and American Studies along with courses in European Business Studies and a language, involving the study of history, literature, film, linguistics, politics and social studies. 

Although there is no formal or assessed career management skills module, the School places a high priority on the development of employability skills and one of the members of academic staff in the School, Dr Pollie Bromilow has the role of Employability Officer. This role has raised the profile of employability and has enabled a successful partnership with the University’s Careers and Employability Service. One of the key developments has been to incorporate employer engagement and issues around employability into the School’s learning and teaching objectives.

These objectives include:

  • using alumni contacts to identify skills developed in degree and in employment to inform curriculum development
  • strengthening links with employers and ensuring degrees meet their needs
  • developing mechanisms for scrutinising employer and student feedback from vocational placements
  • embedding innovation and enterprise into the curriculum with the primary aim of preparing students for future employment.

As there is no formal career management programme, it is important that we think of ways of attracting students to the events offered by the Careers and Employability Service. The advantage of the lack of formal programme is that we are able to change the events on offer every year. A Service Level Agreement is drawn up annually between the School and the Careers and Employability Service to formalise the roles within this partnership and to agree activities for the year ahead.

Working together, the Careers and Employability Service and the School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies have sourced corporate sponsorship from employers who want to raise their profile among languages students. This sponsorship is in the form of competitions based around employability, competences or personal development and reflection. Competitions inject an element of fun into activities that give students an understanding of the graduate job market. These activities provide a strategic focus on employability as students progress through their degrees.

The careers programme

The programme is made up of a series of workshops, presentations and competitions.

Session/Activity Description Year group
Setting the scene for success in your career Competition sponsored by the AA in Lyon to help students identify and express skill competencies and encourage them to enrol on the Skills Award. Students complete ‘skills audit’ and a reflective account of a work-related or personal situation which improved their skills. One
Improve your skills! (Gain the Skills Award) This Award helps students evidence key skills. It is a valuable, reflective process and a qualification that features on the transcript of their degree. One/Two
What jobs do Liverpool students do on their year abroad An overview of the placements previously undertaken on the year abroad. Two
How to get a placement Session run by the Careers and Employability Service looking at resources and applying for placements. Two
Get that job! The Year Abroad Buddies share their tips (Year Abroad Buddies are final year students who act as mentors to students about to go on their year abroad. They are sponsored by Bloomberg and Deloitte.) Two
Aldi does the Apprentice Judged by the Regional Managing Director of Aldi this competition asks students to submit a CV and personal statement showing how they meet the competences of Aldi’s graduate scheme. This helps students to understand how to market themselves effectively but also where any gaps may be in their competencies. Two
Making your year abroad count

Employability skills session run by Careers and Employability Service covering:

  • What skills employers want
  • Identification of personal objectives for Year Abroad (Card Sort)
  • Reflection on current skills and identification of gaps
  • Competency-based application forms and CVs
  • Introduction to Learning Log/PDP
Year abroad photo competition A biennial photo competition (prizes from Aldi). Students submit photos from their year abroad with captions/descriptions to sum up the year abroad experience. Four
CVs and Applications Enhancing applications for jobs and work experience. All
Presentations by employers Deloitte, Bloomberg, Aldi, KPMG. All

All of these local activities are reinforced on an ongoing basis by an e-mail list (working-abroad@liverpool.ac.uk) which advertises language-related vacancies from vacation work to graduate training schemes on behalf of a very large number of employers in the UK and overseas to over 400 students and graduates with language skills. This list is sponsored by Deloitte and Bloomberg.

Year abroad mentoring scheme

Sponsored by Bloomberg and Deloitte, Year Abroad Buddies are students who have returned from their year abroad who mentor students who are about to go on their year abroad.

Year abroad

As students have been introduced to employers and the concept of skill development from year one, one of the issues we have looked at is how to keep this process going when students are on their year abroad and therefore removed from the activities taking place on campus.  

The Year Abroad website supports University of Liverpool students currently studying or working abroad as part of their undergraduate course. It has been developed by the Careers and Employability Service with the aim of helping students:

  • begin or continue career planning activities including skill development, access to careers information
  • access e-guidance with careers adviser
  • apply for jobs, vacation work, courses and other career-related activities that students at the university have access to
  • gain support if on a work placement/teaching placement abroad
  • find out more about the country they are going to including tourist info, job info and bureaucracy
  • access information about welfare issues.

Benefits of the site include:

  • maintains good contact with the Careers and Employability Service
  • helps students feel included and not isolated
  • tailored to students and their needs
  • gives students a simple way to demonstrate the skills they have and the areas they have developed.

Contact with students during the year abroad

I frequently email the students while they are away to remind them to keep using the Year Abroad website and to stress how important their penultimate year is in terms of their career planning. The main contacts are:

  • email in September introducing an action plan for the year ahead
  • email in early January with links to resources, internships and information on what graduates go on to do with a language degree
  • mail the personal objectives they set themselves at the Making your year abroad count session, to students in February as a reminder
  • reminder about completion of Learning Logs
  • e-guidance and CV and application form checks for summer internships.

Students are therefore kept up-to-date with employer activities taking place on campus and can request copies of any presentations they are unable to attend. 


A partnership between the academic department and the careers service is crucial to the area of employer engagement as links made by the careers service can be used by academic departments (and vice versa). It also means that employers are not contacted too often by the same university. For example, all contacts made by the School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies are entered into the Careers and Employability Service’s employer database so we know which employers are active on campus. 

It is also important to think about the needs of employers as well as the needs of the students. Although some employers engage in on-campus activity as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility objectives, the employers we work with are keen to raise their profile with language graduates. These employers are engaging with universities in a strategic way and so this profile-raising needs to turn into outcomes for the employer in terms of increased awareness of their brand or their vacancies. They will also want to see an increase in applications and recruitment.

Tying company presentations to a competition results in a greater student attendance that for purely formal company presentations. This simple strategy allows employers to reach a greater number of students. The employers that we have had a working relationship with for two years have seen large increases in both applications to them and graduate recruitment and so these activities can be seen directly as benefitting both employers and students. 

Related links

University of Liverpool Year Abroad website