Embedding employability in English: work related learning and reflection in the creative industries
Employability is now established as a key theme in the HE landscape, but key challenges for individual subject areas/departments remain:
- to create opportunities for students to develop vocational skills and experience work related learning in the context of the particular skills and knowledges being developed through their subject-based study.
- to ensure that such work related activity is appropriately framed and supported to ensure ‘learning’ takes place, particularly as the numbers of students involved increases.
This is perhaps particularly the case for English, where – in comparison with science or engineering, for example – less work has been done on exploiting the potential for teaching and learning employability (see Day, 2010, for case studies of work done in English departments so far).
In addition, what work has been done on employability and English has focused on undergraduate level engagement (e.g., DMU’s ‘English in the Workplace’ module). As tuition fee changes begin to affect the viability of postgraduate taught study for debt-burdened students, HEIs need to develop credible models for embedding employability into Masters’ level teaching and learning in apparently ‘non-vocational’ subjects.
English at Nottingham already has excellent links with local creative industry partners, and a long history of postgraduate placements with Nottingham Playhouse and the Lakeside Arts Centre. In 2011-12 we are piloting project-based dissertations for six final year undergraduates, while the University’s Advantage Award enables extracurricular experiential learning for employability which has proved attractive to our students. This project will work in partnership with students and three key regional creative industry employers, building on existing good practice within the School and drawing on established excellence in other disciplinary contexts at Nottingham
Our three employer partners for this project are:
- Nottingham Playhouse Roundabout, the theatre-in-education arm of a large regional producing theatre;
- the Lakeside Arts Centre, multi-arts centre in the East Midlands established on the University campus in 2001;
- the non-building based New Perspectives theatre company, the largest single provider of touring theatre to the East Midlands’ network of rural community venues.
These companies have been chosen as they contribute different contexts to our employability work, representing the varying needs of small and medium enterprises in the creative industry sector. Providing opportunities in both arts practice and administration, work with these organisations will enable us to build a framework for work related learning and to develop supporting resources which can be transferred to a wide range of future employers at the conclusion of the project, building on existing links to heritage and museums and health communication projects.
Current Placement Opportunities
The School of English is offering the opportunity for final year undergraduates to take part in some exclusive work related placements with regional creative industries organisations. These will be a mix of practical opportunities to work creatively and roles in administration and marketing so that there should be something of interest to everyone – we hope that you will take up this chance to develop new skills in a supportive environment and to enhance your CV.
Details of the first placements are now available, and provide a fantastic opportunity for anyone interested in a career in teaching, theatre or indeed in any role in which energy, flexibility and creativity is required: Nottingham Playhouse has four work related placements available for trainee workshop leaders. The successful applicants will assist with the running of weekly drama sessions for children, young people or adults, and have the opportunity to develop significant skills and knowledge in the planning and delivery of high-quality drama workshops.
Full details and application form are available to download; the key thing to note is that because of the need to finalise the workshop delivery, there is an early deadline for applying for these positions of midnight on 6 June, i.e. next Wednesday – please use the application form, which should be returned by email or by hand to Rebecca Peck in the School Office, A35 Trent Building. Interviews with shortlisted candidates will take place during the weeks beginning 11 and 18 June and successful candidates will need to undergo enhanced CRB checks before starting work.
The final details of marketing and administration placements at the Lakeside Arts Centre, Nottingham Playhouse and New Perspectives Theatre Company are now being agreed and we hope to advertise these before the end of term, with interviews either soon afterwards or at the very start of the Autumn semester. While all these opportunities sit outside the formal curriculum, the School is offering substantial support and mentoring for successful students – you will be helped to develop a reflective portfolio enabling you to capture your experience and the development of your skills through these placement opportunities.
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