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Five ways careers services can expose students to opportunities in digital technology

  • 22 January 2020
  • By Riddi Viswanathan

This blog is by Riddi Viswanathan, a graduate entrepreneur leading Generation Purple, which aims to enhance diversity in graduate recruitment through gaming technology.

As a graduate entrepreneur who has recently entered the digital technology sector, I am thrilled by the opportunities on offer, especially for international students like me with flexible visa options. If I had known about the opportunities earlier, it would have helped me make better career choices.

My experience suggests careers services in some UK universities still sometimes focus on traditional advice to students, supporting them with CVs and signposting them to opportunities that align with their degrees. But in this rapidly changing world, it is important for careers services to work with their business schools, innovation centres and entrepreneurship institutes to help students explore opportunities beyond traditional graduate routes. 

The UK digital technology sector

Without doubt, technological advance has boosted the development of higher education. Digital technology has opened a plethora of new opportunities for institutions, including the ability to enable transnational educational programmes, increase student engagement via immersive technology and improve the student experience via analytics.

Universities have invested millions to develop the most up-to-date tech-savvy learning portals. As a former student leader, I have seen how investment in well-being technology platforms have enhanced the student experience.

So why is the UK technology sector still struggling to attract and retain the right diverse talent?

Untapped Pockets

The UK digital technology sector is a sector with acute staff shortages. Despite the huge array of grants, support schemes and funds available, there is a shortage of IT specialist managers, machine learning analysts, software developers and IT programme managers among others.

Can university careers services play a greater role in attracting the best talent to the UK technology sector? My experience with students tells me many students perceive technology to be a niche field dedicated only to computer science students. In reality, the technology sector has incredible opportunities for non-technology graduates too.

Previously, I would have not have imagined starting and leading a technology business. But on being exposed to the digital technology sector through my entrepreneurship institute, student societies like the Manchester Entrepreneurs and events like StartUp Weekends, I learnt about the support mechanisms available in digital entrepreneurship that gave me the confidence to launch and lead a digital technology startup that enhances diversity in graduate recruitment through gaming technology.

I believe that, in order to contribute to the advancement of the UK technology sector, we need to break myths about the technology sector among graduates and students. In this, careers services have an integral role to play.

So I have five recommendations on how the career services could expose students to the opportunities in the digital technology sector:

  1. Sessions with alumni from the technology sector: Featuring and hosting alumni from non-tech backgrounds who have successfully broken into the technology industry can be a useful way to inspire non-technology students and graduates to explore the sector. Through events of this kind, careers services can help students break misconceptions about the complexity of the sector and encourage them to explore opportunities.
  2. Supporting student society events: The entrepreneurship societies at various students’ unions organise events like hackathons and startup weekends where they support students in building technology startups through mentorship, networking and laying down the foundations from an idea to establishing a startup. Supporting such events through publicity and collaborations is a great way of getting more students interested and engaged in the technology sector.
  3. Engaging with the wider technology community: Careers services can greatly benefit from establishing partnerships with local and regional technology organisations such as the TiE Network, as careers services could collaborate with the technology organisations in organising technology careers fairs while also having the opportunity to invite experts in technology and entrepreneurship to speak at university careers events.
  4. Integrated working – Careers services, Entrepreneurship institutes and Innovation Centres: From my very own experience, careers services working closely with the university innovation centres and entrepreneurship institutes can have an immensely positive impact on students. More integrated working can help students explore a wider variety of opportunities in research, employment and entrepreneurship. In addition to the job advice provided by the careers service, students will also be exposed to advice and opportunities on entrepreneurship and research which will open doors to many more opportunities in the digital technology sector and beyond.
  5. Opportunities for International Students: Considering that some Tier 2 jobs might have strictly imposed salary threshold limits, careers services along with entrepreneurship institutes and innovation centres can expose international students to opportunities in the digital technology sector early on in their university lives. This might inspire them to consider other visa routes, such as the startup and the innovator visa routes as opposed to Tier 2 jobs with salary threshold limits.

HEPI’s recent work on technology in higher education includes a report with Jisc on cyber-security and a report, produced with support from Tribal on how students believe their personal data should be treated.

Also see Kathy Daniels’s recent blog on the Post Study Work visa and international student employability.

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