Employability And Entrepreneurship: Award Winner And Runners-up
The winner of the competition is Norwich University of the Arts, who managed to increase student engagement with their careers service by introducing a game. The game, called Profile, challenges students to match real-life workplace issues with the skills and character attributes needed to resolve them. Through this game, students can develop valuable skills and interpret job descriptions while understanding why businesses see specific skills as important. Profile also creates an equal playing field for students from all backgrounds and provides a safe space for students with mental health or learning difficulties.
The runner-up, the University of Central Lancashire, has launched a unique publishing house called UCLan Publishing, which is entirely student-run and not-for-profit. The students assess books from outside authors to determine their potential in the current market and then work to produce books that sell in major bookstores. Cold Bath Street, a new book by bestselling author AJ Hartley, was launched through UCLan Publishing and became a bestseller, creating profits that will be reinvested in the publishing house. The students gained valuable skills through this project, which helped them secure employment in esteemed publishing houses.
Another runner-up in the competition was Leeds College of Music, who created The Musicians’ Development and Booking Agency. This agency provides music students with opportunities to perform professionally and gain experience booking, marketing, and managing events, helping them acquire practical skills for their future in the music industry.
Leeds College of Music boasts a yearly enrolment of approximately 1,200 students undertaking popular music, classical music, jazz, music production, film music, songwriting, folk and music business degrees. Despite their academic pursuits, many of these students find themselves settling for low-skill jobs even after completing their studies, in order to afford to keep playing music in their free time.
Over the past decade, the college has been experimenting with various techniques to help students gain experience in their chosen industry and actualize their musical goals. Recently, it established an agency which can amalgamate these various strategies and involve as many students as possible. With an initial budget of £23,000, this agency provided two services to its clientele – a bookings agency responsible for organizing musicians for events, as well as producing promotional videos, photographs or websites, and overseeing business administration for students seeking such assistance.
The enterprise coordinator of the college, James Warrender, states, “The one thing we don’t provide is singing waiters, but we cover most other bases.” This agency is capable of booking cover bands, ceilidh groups, jazz trios, string quartets or even sourcing original music for events like Reading and Liverpool’s Sound City festival.
When students or alumni of the college approach the agency, they request assistance in developing specific aspects of their career. If they want to be included as individual musicians or band on the agency’s list, they need to provide a video showcasing their music. If they don’t have a video, the agency assists them in creating one. In 2017-18, the agency earned a total of £38,510 by booking around 90 performers for 100 gigs and negotiating fees between 10% and 15%, on behalf of students.
Alternatively, students may request the agency’s help with developing business plans, accessing legal advice, mentorship, PR support, funding or even producing merchandise such as vinyls, sheet music, badges and stickers. The agency will then connect them with relevant professionals and share half the costs. When applying for funding, the students have to pitch their ideas to a panel.
The agency had earned £5,280 from its first year, which has since been invested in paying internships to the college’s business students. In the first part of the second year, both earnings and commission increased by 24% and students now have access to two full-time members of staff and a manager.