Posted Tuesday 15 March 2022
A Kingston University careers programme that supports students of Black African or Black Caribbean descent to achieve their full potential was named best widening participation initiative of the year at the annual National Undergraduate Employability (NUE) Awards.
The ELEVATE accelerator programme, which in its first year won the award for best diversity, equality and inclusion programme at the Global Careers Summit, aims to empower and upskill students as well as working with partner employers and organisations to support them in taking tangible steps towards racial equity.
It was one of two initiatives run by the University's careers and employability service shortlisted for top accolades at this year's NUE awards, alongside the University's partnership with Lidl GB in the best collaboration between universities and employers category. The awards, run by RateMyPlacement.co.uk, celebrate the achievements of employers, agencies, students and universities in undergraduate work experience across the United Kingdom.
The judging panel praised the programme for its success in empowering and upskilling Black students, providing holistic employability support through student careers coordinators and developing students both personally and professionally.
With more than 400 Kingston students having taken part in ELEVATE so far, alongside some 27 employers, the level of engagement has demonstrated the value such programmes can bring, Zion Sengulay, careers and employability adviser, said.
"To have this industry recognition is an amazing feeling – it reinforces the reality of the student experience. It's been fantastic to see the impact ELEVATE has made and for students involved in the programme to see that we understand and acknowledge their experiences and are putting tangible things in place to support them," he said.
"Throughout the pandemic, the engagement has been brilliant, and we've had a number of other institutions showing an interest in what we've done and looking at how they can deliver something similar for their students. As well as the experience gained through placements, mentorships and internships with employer partners, students on the programme put themselves in a great position to land graduate roles as companies become more aware of the talent pool through their work with us."
Akua Abedia-Boafo, who graduated from Kingston University last summer with a degree in English literature and drama, was among those who took part in ELEVATE last year.
"What really appealed to me was that this was a programme specifically set up to help Black students get jobs and progress in their careers after graduating," the 22-year-old filmmaker from Newham, East London, said.
"ELEVATE really helped develop my confidence. I remember going to a talk with a Black female creative who gave me advice on next steps and shared some of her own experiences. These opportunities also helped me to build relationships with industry. It really was an amazing programme to be part of and the support was invaluable."
As well as exploring how to expand the programme's impact outside of the University, the careers and employability team has been working to develop its offering, with the rollout of a summer suite of paid micro-placements, tracking the long-term impact of student engagement and broadening opportunities for students to get involved from an early stage of their time at Kingston.
"One of the ways in which we are looking to expand the exposure new and prospective students have to ELEVATE is by featuring it as part of Welcome Week from the next academic year, and also by having a presence at open days, which will allow us to raise awareness of what we can offer to Black students currently in Sixth Form colleges," Mr Sengulay said.