INTO pilots Summer Employment Boost program to fast-track international students’ career success

INTO pilots Summer Employment Boost program to fast-track international students’ career success

Summer Employment Boost Cover (1)

Late in June, 20 international students from universities across the UK met at the INTO World Education Centre in London to participate in INTO Summer Employment Boost, a pilot program to fast-track career success. Over the course of the six-day boot camp, the students took part in workshops, met with entrepreneurs behind million-dollar ventures and carried out an employer challenge set by one of Europe’s fastest-growing companies — all to develop and sharpen skillsets necessary to compete for and excel in graduate roles.

Securing a graduate job is challenging in the best of times. Even before the pandemic, it took 22% of students over seven months to secure employment after graduation. Now, factors such as accelerated digitalization across sectors and COVID-induced economic turbulence have resulted in an especially competitive job market.

University students are acutely aware of the hurdles they face in landing a job post-graduation. Nearly two-thirds — 65% — believe getting a job is more difficult for them than their parents’ generation, according to a Morning Consult survey. They also know that career success takes advanced preparation, and 77% are concerned they don’t have the skills they need for graduate jobs.

The INTO CareerFirst team launched Summer Employment Boost to equip students with the skills, experiences and connections they need to accelerate their career progression. Part of that offering involved practical advice around crafting standout CVs and cover letters, nailing interviews and building professional networks. At the same time, students were empowered to identify their personal superpowers as well as areas in which they needed additional support. The result was a responsive program that provided bespoke support and instilled in students knowledge and confidence to find, apply for and secure graduate roles.

International student in red cap participates in INTO Summer Employment Boost Program in London, England.

“It was important for us to offer our participants something that complements the support they already get at university,” explains Michael Lynas, Vice President, INTO CareerFirst. “This means an intense boost of real-world work, be that skills training from employers or working on real business challenges. These opportunities, alongside the networks built and the confidence developed, are what make INTO CareerFirst students stand out from the crowd.”

Each day of the program was devoted to helping students enhance different facets of their employability, beginning with a focus on searching for jobs and launching careers and entrepreneurial enterprises. They took part in Q & A sessions with Will Dean MBE, founder of Tough Mudder, who shared tips from his experience in startups, and with Dhruv Krishnaraj, founder of the career site for international students Student Circus, who offered insight into how they could improve their job searches.

From there, students honed hard skills such as data analysis, visualization and storytelling with training tech-enabled consultancy firm JMAN Group — the same training the firm gives recently hired graduates — and soft skills, working with communications experts on how to present themselves and their ideas in interviews and the boardroom.

Three international students collaborate on data analysis project over laptop during INTO Summer Employment Boost program in London.

The experience culminated in the employer challenge. Participants had to work in teams to put the skills they had developed into practice, solving a real business challenge posed by a top British tech company. This involved meeting senior employees to get a briefing on the issues faced, crunching the numbers in Excel and delivering a compelling presentation as a team.

On the final day of the program, students received certificates of achievement while reflecting on their time together:

“It has been indescribable. What I believe was the best is that I was dealing with many people with different backgrounds, which gave it more of a workplace vibe,” shares one participant.

International student sits at desk and speaks with instructor during INTO Summer Employment Boost program in London, UK.

Four out of five of the participants indicated they would recommend Summer Employment Boost to other international students. Of all the components of the program, it was clear that students placed a high value on the connections they were able to make with employers during their six days in London.

“For many of the students, meeting top entrepreneurs and getting real employer training were the highlights of the week. Students are after opportunities to gain real-world experience and forge networks that will serve them in their job searches and careers,” emphasizes Nina Jussila, Student Success Manager for INTO CareerFirst, who served as one of the leaders on Summer Employment Boost.

Although the program has concluded, the CareerFirst team will provide students with ongoing coaching support, working alongside their universities’ career services to help them reach their career goals.

“Now, our priority becomes helping these students leverage the skills they’ve acquired and the networks they’ve built to search for and secure the graduate roles they deserve. That, and taking what we’ve learned from this pilot and applying it to future Boost programs, so we can help more international students go further in their careers, faster. We’re excited to be running similar programs in Manchester and Belfast in September,” concludes Mr. Lynas.

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