With support from our Santander Universities and alumnus Chris Marriott, Royal Holloway has been able to prepare our students and recent graduates for employment – even in the most challenging of circumstances
Leaving university and entering the world of work is a daunting prospect at the best of times. For those students who graduated in 2021, it may have felt like an impossible task. So, we have been delighted that our longstanding partnership with Santander Universities, and ongoing support from our alumni community, have enabled us to support our students to gain essential work experience at a time when they need it more than ever.
The Santander Universities Employability Scheme in collaboration with Santander Universities offered fully funded internships to 10 undergraduate finalists and recent graduates to complete a work project for up to 108 hours during the Spring and Summer of 2021.
This year, placements were shorter, meaning more opportunities were offered than ever before. “We’ve got so much evidence to show that the students that have been able to participate in this scheme have gone on to either continue to work in that sector or get jobs elsewhere which is just phenomenal," says Gianina Harvey-Brewin, Head of Careers at Royal Holloway.
2021 also saw the launch of the Santander Open Minds Placement Scheme to support students either with mental health conditions or with communication difficulties. 15 fully-funded work experience placements were created, in sectors including digital marketing, health and healthcare, and technology, 12 of which were generated and supervised by Royal Holloway alumni.
“We really wanted the opportunities to come from our community who had been in the students' shoes," says Gianina. "The students really appreciated that Royal Holloway alumni were making way for the next generation and supporting them in the workplace. Our students were also grateful for the opportunity to have a tailored scheme – they saw it as less competitive and were really pleased that the employers wanted to engage with something specifically for students with disabilities, and it meant that employers were taking extra steps to accommodate those students."
“Alumni have a unique opportunity to unlock the potential of current Royal Holloway students who are ambitious and keen to participate, but are often held back by invisible barriers associated with their condition. Supporting programmes like this by offering placements, alumni and their employers give students a platform to demonstrate their skills and build their confidence. They also give the employer organisation a very real way to demonstrate their their commitment to diversity and inclusion. Our placements team managed the application and shortlisting process, so organisations didn’t have to use their resources sifting through applications and only interviewed the most suitable candidates.”
Consulting with MyPlus, one of the UK's leading authorities in disability recruitment and development, the Placements team ensured that eligible students felt supported. “As part of the scheme, all of the eligible students get additional sessions which help them with what we call ‘disclosure confidence,’” says Gianina. “We’ll look at how we can help them to be more confident to talk about their mitigating circumstances and answer questions with an employer so that they get the support they need.
“As a College we really want to support groups who are either under-represented in the workplace or provide additional support to identified groups of students who we recognise need a little extra support,” she adds.
Students who had secured an internship and required expenses could also apply for a £500 grant through our Placements Hardship Fund. "It was important that we removed barriers so that students could succeed regardless of their financial situation," says Gianina.
To help students to take up valuable work experience placements throughout their time at university, next year our popular Micro-Placements scheme will be opened solely to first-year undergraduate students. With financial backing from donors and thanks to the ongoing support of alumnus Chris Marriott and his wife Lindsey, between 50 and 60 two to four-week paid work experience placements will be made available.
“Knowing how vital work experience is for gaining employment, we’re trying to arrange the placements pathway so there is an opportunity at every stage, rather than clustered around the finalists’ year,” says Harvey-Brewin.
“What sets Royal Holloway’s employability schemes apart is that they are not simply about generating opportunities; we also want to ensure that our students are properly prepared beforehand,” says Harvey-Brewin. “We’ll help the students to make good applications; we run etiquette classes and teach them about resilience and networking. All of this is built into the Santander programmes and the Micro-Placement Scheme, which we have a lot of alumni support for too. Our goal is to help students to understand and prepare for the employment landscape throughout their studies.”
Gianina Harvey-Brewin joined the careers team at Royal Holloway in 2019 as Head of Employer Engagement, before becoming Head of the Careers Service earlier this year. As an alumna herself, (BA Classics, 2012) she understands our student experience better than most.
“Coming back to Royal Holloway is my opportunity to give back to an institution which gave me so much,” she says. “It’s a community that I really love as an alumna and I feel that I can identify with the students.”
"Royal Holloway's employment schemes offer our students invaluable opportunities to prepare them for the challenge of the workplace. Through the schemes our goal is to help our students to gain the confidence, resilience and workplace skills that will help them to thrive in life beyond campus. To achieve this we do need help from our alumni community, perhaps as an online mentor or by letting us know of placement opportunities where they work. If you are an alumna or alumnus and would like to find out more about how to help current students, we'd love to talk with you."
If you would like to get involved with supporting the Royal Holloway Employability schemes, please contact our alumni team