City Connections programme nominated for top national award

City Connections thumbThe Faculty’s unique employability programme for widening participation students, City Connections, was nominated for Outstanding Support for Students at this year’s Times Higher Education Awards.

The award recognises UK institutions that help students to gain the maximum benefit from their studies.

In March 2015 colleagues in Development, Alumni Relations and Events and the Social Sciences Outreach team ran City Connections, a HEAR-accredited programme, for 40 widening participation students. Participants benefitted from guidance provided by some of our successful alumni, as well as more general careers and skills advice.

City Connections aims to increase the self-efficacy of students, boost their networking confidence, improve self-awareness of career interests and the skills needed to succeed, and provide a rewarding engagement opportunity for alumni.

The programme includes two skills workshops in Sheffield and a visit to London. Students visit four alumni businesses, participate in tours and workshops and attend an evening networking event with University of Sheffield alumni.

“Although we didn’t win, to be nominated for this award is a fantastic recognition for City Connections, everyone who worked on the programme, the alumni that made it possible and the students who took part.

“We set out to address the real disadvantages faced by some groups of students in the world of employment by giving them access to relevant networks and valuable careers insight generously provided by our alumni community,” said Emma Packham, Alumni Volunteering Manager.

Colleagues in Widening Participation Research and Evaluation Unit undertook an evaluation of the City Connections programme and found that there was a consensus amongst students that they had developed general business knowledge and insights.

In particular, they noted the opportunity to visit and learn more about sectors and businesses of which they had previously been unaware.

Dominic Shepherd, an Economics student who took part in the programme, said: “For me, it was a call to action. Before the event, I had all that uncertainty, but City Connections taught me to get the experience first, work hard and, from that, to find my true passion. As a result of taking that advice, I’ve found the sector for me.”

Since its launch in Social Sciences, City Connections has become an annual event, and has also been successfully launched in the Faculty of Arts & Humanities.