Serving up skills to boost employability
19/07/2016

Industry experience puts students ahead of the game where employability is concerned, says Falmouth Exeter Plus' Nigel McAlwane.

At Falmouth Exeter Plus, the shared services partner for Falmouth University and the University of Exeter, Cornwall, we have taken an innovative approach to providing essential, real-life experience. We’ve developed initiatives to support students as they develop new, transferable skills and gain employment. From helping DJs get exposure through our live entertainment on campus, to providing an opportunity to build the skills they need to secure part-time work during their studies, we aim to help boost our students’ skills to support them and enhance their university experience. 

Homegrown talent

With our Homegrown series we grasped the opportunity to harness the talent of student DJs both from Falmouth University and the University of Exeter, Cornwall, and integrate it into our live campus entertainment. Homegrown is a live DJ competition that provides student DJs with the crucial exposure to succeed in a demanding music industry. After sending their demos to us for an initial shortlist the students taking part get a chance to network with, and potentially get ‘spotted’ by promoters, while they compete against other universities for a chance to support big name acts. But our Homegrown approach is about more than simply showcasing talent – we give the artists full involvement in the event production and set up, from marketing and promotion to the technical aspects of lighting and sound. We provide the essential, practical skills that establish an enormous professional advantage in the industry. Hugo Ellingham, aka Apres, is a Homegrown winner from Falmouth University who in 2014 was awarded the opportunity to support headline act Bondax at a live University event. 

The success of this show led to the release of his debut single Chicago House, which featured at number 2 in the Dance Downloads Chart and appeared on last year’s album from dance icon, Annie Mac. Now signed to the SubSoul label, his success continues, with remixes, large festivals and a homecoming appearance back on campus with Radio 1 DJ Hannah Wants.

Serving up experience

For many of our students, however, it’s not high-profile career breaks they’re after, but rather it’s their short-term employment prospects that need our support. Increasingly we’re approached by students looking for part-time work with us, who have no previous experience in the service industry. We recognised that although we don’t have jobs available for everyone, we do have a wealth of knowledge that we can share to increase their chances of finding part-time work 
off campus. 

Our Stannary Academy free bar training course has trained over 700 students in the past two years in basic bar skills, customer service, cellar work and licensing law. Open to all students studying at Falmouth University or the University of Exeter, Cornwall Campus, the short course is made up of a four-hour training session followed by vital practical experience working a shift behind the bar. As well as the confidence this gives them when seeking jobs in other bars in the area, everyone who completes the course gets a certificate to add to their resume as evidence of their experience.

Former Falmouth and Exeter Students’ Union (FXU) President, Oli Maskrey, was one of the first to benefit from the training sessions. He said: “The Stannary Academy bar training was really useful for me. Although I was fairly sure I already knew how to pull a pint it gave me the confidence to say that I definitely did and a lot of other important knowledge about working in a bar environment. I was employed in a pub in Falmouth after attending the course and I’m sure that confidence and knowledge contributed to that success.” 

There is always huge demand for the Academy, we sign people up at Freshers’ week and more come on board throughout the year. Our students understand the importance of having an employable skill in the service industry – a great match for the opportunities available in this vibrant Cornish leisure spot. 

The Academy does require a lot of time and coordination. We’re limited as to how many people we can train because of the need to rota everyone’s shift behind the bar alongside our existing staff, without compromising our service quality. We are investigating ways we can train more people, more quickly, so that as many students as possible can benefit from this free resource. Now we are looking at ways to expand the Academy to offer a broader range of skills. From September we will also be offering The Barista Academy, to take full advantage of the ever-popular coffee culture. And we plan to develop Homegrown into an Academy in its own right – with DJ and promoter workshops offering guidance to students on how to mix and produce records, develop marketing skills and understand more about the industry itself. 

We will continue to seek out new and innovative ways to support our students, adding valuable life skills to their education mix to help give them the best chance to secure their prosperous future.

Falmouth Exeter Plus were shortlisted for the Innovation Award for Excellence in Student Experience at the CUBO Awards 2015. Find out more about the CUBO Awards at www.cubo.org.uk

Image credit: Jack Matthews.