Employability lies at very heart of student experience at Ulster University

AT Ulster University, employability continues to lie at the heart of the student experience, with a growing emphasis on developing relationships with the business community.

Damian McGivern, director of employability at the university, said each year more than 2,000 students now avail of year-long placements in a wide range of industries related to their specific area of study.

“This ensures our graduates are equipped with the knowledge, skills and confidence to excel in professional life,” he said.

“We have fostered extremely valuable relationships with businesses across a wide range of industries to help develop high-calibre, industry-ready graduates.”

Resilient and highly skilled graduates continue to “successfully stimulate business growth”, he said, not only in a Northern Ireland context, but across the world.

At Ulster University, every full-time undergraduate student has a work-based learning opportunity as an integral part of their degree, undertaking placements in sectors spanning everything from engineering and IT, to health care and the creative industries.

Among the high profile companies at which students take up placements on a regular basis are leading global names, including PwC and Randox.

First Derivatives also provides “unrivalled placement opportunities” for students, while internationally, students on placements with global companies such as Liberty IT, Norbella and Faithful & Gould, bring global awareness and knowledge to leadership positions in the north.

“Employability skills are woven into the fabric of our curriculum, our students' learning experience and our institutional attitude,” Mr McGivern said.

“That includes everything from in-class modules, to recruitment events, online master classes, employability awards and business partnerships, as well as our considerable local and global networks of employers.

“Our commitment to employability, to our students and to external industry, is threaded through every aspect and every department of the University.”

Each year, there are also over 5,000 students who receive recognition and accreditation for extra and co-curricular activities they complete through the University's innovative Employability Award (Ulster EDGE).

The EDGE Award is a formal acknowledgement of students who enhance their academic study with valuable learning experiences outside the classroom, such as volunteering, studying abroad and work placements.

Ulster University's Economic Policy Centre, meanwhile, produces the 'Northern Ireland Skills Barometer', which provides a detailed understanding of the skill requirements for the region's economy up to 2026.

This level of forecasting informs the development of the portfolio of courses and development of effective careers education programmes for prospective students, current students and graduates.

“We work alongside businesses - from large global organisations to SMEs - to understand their current context, their short-term ambitions and long-term visions," Mr McGivern added.

“We also tap into their skills requirements and their graduate needs, as well as considering the projections around our local economy.

“Our mission is to continue contributing to a local economic environment which is attractive to global investors and to develop a graduate workforce which is highly employable and sought after.”

Over 93 per cent of Ulster University graduates are in work or further study six months after leaving university - a high success rate which is attributed to the university's “innovative approach” to collaborating with industry, which is helping create graduates with the "skills and confidence necessary to thrive in the workplace".

Ulster University is ranked in the top three per cent of universities worldwide and is one of the top 150 global young universities under 50 years old.

:: The Irish News Workplace & Employment Awards take place in Titanic Belfast on Thursday June 14. Entries must be submitted by noon on Friday April 27 and the short-listed companies will be revealed in the Irish News on Thursday May 17.

:: More details at and follow us on Twitter @IrishNewsWEA

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