L-R Terrence Perrin (Chair, European Campus Recruitment, BNP Paribas), Paul Blackmore (University of Exeter Head of Employability and Graduate Development), Steve Gaskin (University of Exeter Employability and Professional Development Manager) with Hugh Dennis at the AGR Awards.

Triple win for Exeter as employability programmes are named best in country

For the first time since Europe’s premier graduate recruiter AGR Awards were launched in 1978, the Blue Ribbon award – recognising the year’s ‘best of the best’ – has gone to a higher education institution, the University of Exeter. 

The University now joins a select and prestigious group of previous winners such as Accenture, IBM and The Bank of England.

The University won the HE sector awards earlier in the year before taking both the Graduate Development Award and the Blue Ribbon Award. The awards were presented to Paul Blackmore and Steve Gaskin of University of Exeter Employability and Graduate Development by comedian and TV actor Hugh Dennis at the annual awards dinner at Newport’s Celtic Manor Resort.

The awards have been made in recognition of the University’s wider strategic approach to employability to ensure all students: acquire relevant skills and attributes for the labour market, are aware of essential milestones for effective career planning and gain levels of self-efficacy that allow them to articulate this awareness to opportunity providers.

The judges, consisting of students and employers, highlighted the input by employers into the design and delivery of provision, the University’s long-term commitment to these programmes, and the consistent messaging delivered to students.

“The results achieved by the University of Exeter at the AGR Awards this year have been outstanding,” said Carl Gilleard, Chief Executive of the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR). “First winning the HE sector awards earlier in the year, the most heavily contested to date,  before taking both the Graduate Development Award and the Blue Ribbon Award, presented  to the best overall entrant. Our judges were impressed by the bold, ambitious and innovative thinking behind their development schemes, which provides detailed support to individual students, finding the right role for them and preparing them for that specific job. This is an excellent reflection on Exeter’s commitment to preparing their students for the demands of working life in the 21st century.”

While the wide range of Exeter’s employability initiatives were recognised, the judges specified two keys areas which helped to secure the award, the ‘3-2-1’ career planning workshops and the eXfactor programme. Both programmes are discipline-specific and aim to improve not only employability but attitudes towards work which recruiters have highlighted are lacking in many graduates.

The ‘3-2-1’ workshops comprise of mandatory sessions delivered in each year of study, which help provide students with the skills to independently take the appropriate steps in career planning. The eXfactor programme is a two-day intensive workshop for all first year students aimed at teaching the personal, professional and enterprise-related skills necessary for successfully progressing into the jobs market.

This significant investment by the University has seen a 25 per cent increase in engagement levels with the Employability programme over the last year, as well as earlier engagement in career planning, increased levels of placements secured and a continued rise in graduate-level destinations.

Paul Blackmore, Head of Student Employability and Academic Success, commented: “This is the ultimate accolade that the University could ever hope to receive in recognition of our strategic efforts in developing exemplar provision around student employability and employer-engagement. It stands us in good stead for the growing expectations that will be placed upon all top Universities in the years ahead.”

Sir Tim Wilson DL, Author of the Wilson Review for University-Business Collaboration on behalf of the Government said, "Within the majority of universities, graduate employability is an increasingly important agenda; and that requires partnership with employers, large and small, private and public. By winning these Awards, Exeter has been recognised as a national leader in this field; my sincere congratulations to Paul Blackmore and his team."

Date: 19 July 2012