Case Study

How Cardiff University scaled up its brilliant employability programme to 4,000+ new students a year.

Cardiff University
A leading university situated in multilingual Wales

Cardiff University is a renowned institution that has been educating talent for over 130 years and one of the leading research universities in the world, consistently ranked amongst the top 200 worldwide and 2nd for impact nationally. It’s proud of its highly diverse student population of 33,000+ students, coming from more than 100 countries and with a range of backgrounds.  

 

Scaling up the positive outcomes of the Cardiff Award to thousands of students and alumni

The Careers Services team has always been ambitious in its goals for how it can get not just current students career-ready but for how it can impact the career journey of all its alumni. 

This is demonstrated by the Cardiff Award, one of the most effective employability development programmes in the UK with its 10th anniversary in 2021. Open to all students from the day they register, the structured programme offers students the opportunity to understand their personal and professional potential from day one, then encourages them to participate in activities online and in-person to develop their employability skills. The Award particularly “champions extra-curricular activity and experience outside of student studies and therefore recognises those achievements” said Ellie Ball, who achieved her Cardiff Award whilst studying her MA in Magazine Journalism.

It offers a practical experience of recruitment processes to help students compete in the graduate job market. This also includes formal recognition for work, volunteering and other extra-curricular experiences undertaken outside of academic studies and off-campus. 

A high profile Award

At the graduation ceremony, graduates of the Cardiff Award receive an additional printed certificate alongside their degree. This makes completing the Cardiff Award a high profile and visible achievement to be proud of. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tzP2N4h0Q2Q


The challenge: Scaling up the Cardiff Award to thousands of students

The Cardiff Award is organised and run by Cardiff Career Services, a small but powerful team responsible for helping all students achieve career success. Jane Goodfellow and her Career & Employability team were ambitiously setting goals to scale up the outreach by bringing not just the Award online but a programme of resources under the Your Career Journey banner that every student could access 24/7. After the Potential.ly team first met Deputy Head of Careers Service Megan Jenkins at AGCAS, Potential.ly were brought in to help bring the Cardiff Award to life online. It also meant there would no longer be a room full of paper from all the Award portfolios that used to be submitted physically. Together the following challenges were tackled:


  • Increase participation in the Award by at least 25% from the 300 in 2017-18
  • Scale-up employability impact by delivering a new Your Career Journey platform bringing the best selection from the Award resources into a wider set of employability programmes. 
  • Ensure the small team could create and manage an engaging series of online activities and resources in one place and manage an expected increased engagement from students.
  • Enable the team to become more data-driven in its support offering. Led by Rhian Perridge and Sharon Witts from the Business Partner and Data team, the University had developed excellence in learner analytics and was keen to be able to report and gain insight to measure impact outcomes.
  • As a Welsh University that already delivers 100-degree courses which either offer some or all of their modules in Welsh, the team wanted to work towards a fully multilingual platform, with all resources available in English and Welsh. 

 


“Potential.ly enables us to target student engagement by focussing activity on the career readiness stage that students are at. The pilot proved that much of our activity can be as effectively delivered online with the added advantage of being able to reach the whole student population, rather than a few. Students can participate at a time convenient to them, re-watch online content and save work in their personal cloud-based portfolio. Moreover, the platform provides each student with a personality assessment report which has proved both valuable and popular amongst students.”

Sharon Witts, Careers & Employability Project Manager at Cardiff University

The Cardiff Award Today - 4,000 new students engaging with the Your Career Journey platform every year.

Achievements over the last year

Year on year increasing interest and engagement from students.
The team’s efforts have paid off with the Your Career Journey employability platform seeing a 50% increase in engagement during the 2019-20 academic year vs the previous year. 

Not settling on this success, the team saw this engagement exceeded with over 150,000 page views across resources and activities within the first five months into the 2020-21 academic year.


The team worked with Potential.ly to bring more programmes and features online to also enable students to complete the programme at any time and from anywhere that works for them. Whilst there are on-campus activities, they are not mandatory so this again offers more flexibility. Alongside the flexibility of the timing the team are now able to reach students who are final year, postgraduate, abroad or on placement. 


  • More than 4,000 new students engage with Your Career Journey every year.
  • Now more students and alumni can benefit from Cardiff Award elements whether on and off campus through Your Career Journey which is a significantly expanded programme of resources and activities with several distinct programmes for Post-grads, PHDs/Researchers, International Students, and Entrepreneurs. In 2020 that included content to help students cope with the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Another extension in 2020 was that Your Career Journey became accessible to all alumni too which proved valuable to those graduates impacted by the Covid-19 job crisis and those unable to be on campus.
  • Every student or alumni user can showcase their successes through an integrated eFolio. This is being extended to allow the student to take their folio into their careers, as alums and share with others.
  • Students completed more than 6,000 sessions (courses) online last year.
  • Award registrations have been increasing over 30% each year to date.
  • An average of over 70,000 hours of extracurricular activities logged into student portfolios for the Cardiff Award each year. That’s on average 250% more hours
    than required.

Measuring success!

The Cardiff University careers team have always been focused on being data-driven and being able to measure the engagement and outcomes of the Your Career Learning platform was no different. Through Potential.ly, Cardiff University can view and export extensive analytics. As Potential.ly is integrated into SITS engagement data can be combined with individual programmes of study, status and stage of degree allowing academic departments to be informed on how their student cohorts are developing across the University’s attributes, skills and values.


This has encouraged greater support and sponsorship of new resources that meet the needs of students’ competency gaps or aspirations as well as the development of bespoke sessions, for example, PHDs. This activity includes utilisation across behavioural diagnostics, skills audits, career opportunities indicators all mapped across the Cardiff Attribute frameworks.


Cardiff University also reviews whether the Cardiff Award has had a higher positive outcome on students vs those that have not completed the programme completing sample audits through LinkedIn and from destination surveys on where our Alumni are a year on. The team also introduced a survey for non-completers to understand why they did not finish the programme which helped lead to higher uptake and completion in 2019-2020.

Make it relevant. Great content for CU students, made by CU staff and students! 

 

Over time, the offering from the Cardiff Careers team has grown to over 300 learning resources, workshops and activities for students - all seamlessly delivered via Potentially. The ability of the team to create such a rich offering is also a testament to the ease-of-use of the Potential.ly content editor, and the platform’s ability to embed and include other tools. The careers team created what can be considered a benchmark programme of rich media and activities within one learning context from;

  • Diagnostic questionnaires
  • Videos, images, audio files, podcasts from such sources as YouTube, Panopto for lecture capture, Spotify, Soundcast and google docs, PDFs, office 365 etc.
  • Interactivity by embedding within learning sessions, interactive Genial.ly docs, Padlets, H5P just to name a few.
  • Meanwhile, Potential.ly’s inbuilt reflection forms, quizzes, document uploads and progress trackers ensure the student has a record of achievement to always view and be reviewed by career services. 


Lessons for others from the CU team

“When considering upscaling and continuing to offer a quality service with either the same or even reduced team, buy-in is vital at all levels, both within the department and across the institution. Within our Service, the Award is included in other staff members’ remits in terms of promotion and support. When spread widely, it doesn’t have a huge impact on workloads. Word of mouth is our best recruitment channel and in particular through academics so it is worth the time and effort to build those relationships.” - Emily McCarthy - 


Future goals

The team is looking at further increasing recruitment figures each year and increasing retention rates. They are also looking to utilise the gamification tools within the platform with stepped badges, and tracking of growth for logged extra-curricular activity. 


Covid-19 and using Your Career Learning to help students through the pandemic.

In 2020 the pandemic impacted everyone tremendously, not least students who couldn’t come to campus and many of whom were away for the first time. Being able to support students and graduates became a priority for most education institutions. As a result of all the hard work in building up the Your Career Journey platform, Cardiff University was capable of responding quickly, curating and creating a Covid-19 programme of resources within the platform for both students and any alumni to support career planning.

Technical implementation

Secure and seamless login and journeys between the platform and other services (VLE, Job Boards systems, SITs...)

  • SAML and Shibboleth, with SHA-256 encryption. No passwords or any sensitive data that is needed is stored.  
  • Integration with the Student Information System allows mapping to useful student metrics including activity, engagement and development across departments and year cohorts whilst also enabling data share back to the university for impact outcome metrics. 
  • Multilingual experience to allow content to be delivered in both Welsh and English.
  • Fully mobile responsive. The platform can be launched from any device and adapts perfectly
  • Students can access the platform 24/7 and complete activities on a desktop, laptop, tablet or mobile phone 

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