Career advisers from SDU share experiences with European colleagues
Students should have a mindset that enables them to translate what they learn at university into skills they can use on the labour market. Career advisers from all over Europe visited the University of Southern Denmark to hear about the university's experience with integrating career learning into teaching
Career advisers at the University of Southern Denmark (SDU) have worked on implementing career learning for a number of years. The goal is to make students more career-conscious.
Knowledge about career learning is in demand at universities. Not only in Denmark but also in Europe. In the month of May, 16 career advisers from several European universities met at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense to exchange knowledge and learn about the Danish experiences.
SDU introduced the Career Management Skills course into a few of their programmes in 2014. The course has since become ECTS-based and can now be found in 41 programmes. For some students the course is compulsory, while for others it is an elective. Several thousand students have taken the course.
Career learning helps students
The career course can provide students with something special. New unemployment rates suggest that recent graduates who have focused on their career during their studies find employment faster than those who have not.
The career advisers from SDU revealed at the meeting that they have moved from exclusively guiding students to entering a consulting role, so that the responsibility of career guidance is no longer theirs alone.
The course Career Management Skills has been integrated into all master’s degrees at the Faculty of Humanities and for most of the students it has been made compulsory. The researchers are encouraged to incorporate career learning in their courses.
Fanny Elheim from Linnaeus University in Sweden says that it can be a challenge to get university teachers at the university to see the advantage of talking about careers during teaching.
“We arrange workshops in the courses for a number of programmes, but we are always out selling our services. We hope that the programmes will begin to call us at some point because they realise that they need us,” she says.
Guide teachers in career learning
Euroguidance representative Mia Trcol prepares courses for career advisers in Croatia. She notes that the challenges for advisers appear to be very similar across national borders.
“There are many students who start to think about their career too late, and universities vary widely in the way they handle initiatives regarding career guidance. In Croatia, working purposefully with your career at universities is a relatively new thing,” she explains.
“If career learning is to be a part of normal teaching, it also requires that the university teachers receive guidance on how to go about it,” explains associate professor and researcher in student competencies and learning processes Tine Lynfort Jensen from Language and Communication at SDU's Faculty of Humanities.
“How can a subject about literature in the 18th century also be about your career? This is entirely feasible,” says the associate professor, who is coordinator of the strategic activities within employability at the Faculty of Humanities.
She has helped to create a portal for fellow researchers who require more knowledge about how they can include career discussions in their teaching.
“It is easier if you can speak the same language as your academic colleagues. It is important to have a broad understanding of employability and to know that is based on proper and inspiring research. Furthermore, it is important to them that students who take their courses are motivated,” explains Tine Lynfort Jensen to the career advisers.
A practical approach to career
In career learning, SDU maintains a strong focus on the abilities that the university provides its students, in addition to the academic insight they receive in the programmes. The ability to set themselves goals for example. To work in groups. To think analytically.
The question that preoccupies many students is: What can I use my education for? Career advisers at SDU often experience this, and this applies to several of our European colleagues, for example in Iceland.
“Many students come to us to discuss their study choice and career opportunities after graduation,” explains María Dóra Björnsdóttir, who is director of the Student Counselling and Career Centre at the University of Iceland.
“However, we know that there is a large group of students that we are unable to reach who could benefit from the guidance. You have solved this problem here at SDU by implementing career learning in the teaching. It is interesting to hear more about this.”
Challenges will help to prepare students
Part of the Career Management Skills course is about giving students practical challenges that will prepare them in securing their first job. And the next. And the one after that.
For example, the students learn to contact people with similar educations in the business community. This is to expand their network and to discover how the education can be used in practice.
This is something of a challenge for many students, but the results are positive. There was therefore also a high degree of satisfaction in the evaluation of the career course.
The aim of all career learning activities is to provide every student with a mindset that enables them to understand their strengths and discover where they can use their skills in the labour market.
A good recipe for career education
Several of the visitors agree that SDU has an exciting, consistent and different way of thinking about career guidance. María Dóra Björnsdóttir from the University of Iceland sees an opportunity to be more specific when counsellors talk to students about their future working life.
“We could be better at explaining to the students that the university not only provides them with an education but also with transferable skills they can use in the labour market. For example, analytical thinking and the ability to work in groups,” she explains.
Fanny Elheim from Linnaeus University in Sweden finds it motivating to see that bringing career learning into teaching works.
“We are already thinking along these lines, but we have not come as far. Here we have a Danish example that it works. It’s possible for us to do it,” she says.
The Croatian Euroguidance representative Mia Trcol will also take some important knowledge home from the study visit.
“We have gained practical knowledge, not just theory and discussions about issues. We now have a recipe that focuses on solutions for how we can manage the various challenges that crop up when we work with career and employability.
A study visit on career learning
The Danish Euroguidance Centre within the Ministry of Higher Education and Research arranged the study visit on career learning in cooperation with SDU. It took place on 14-15 May 2019 at SDU in Odense. 16 career advisers from Iceland, Finland, Sweden, Croatia, Estonia and Latvia attended.
Erasmus+ and Euroguidance
The study visit became a reality due to Euroguidance, which is a part of the Erasmus+ Programme. Euroguidance is a European network that supports, trains and retrains career advisers throughout Europe. The network promotes mobility and the European dimension in guidance.
The career guidance at SDU
SDU’s career guidance consists of eight advisers and a manager. The career advisers teach the Career Management Skills course and provide individual guidance, group guidance, digital guidance and career arrangements. In addition to the activities of the career advisers, more and more of the researchers are including career learning in their courses.