Our recent employer survey highlighted these aptitudes for prospective employees: oral and written communication, engagement, interpersonal and organisational skills, time management, planning and strategic thinking.
But how do you develop postgraduate employability skills on a vocational course like public relations (PR)? How do you engage postgraduates, and give them the confidence to work in a multicultural team when many of them do not have English as a mother tongue, have rarely worked in any kind of professional capacity in their field of study and have little or no experience of working in a business environment?Our solution lay in partnering with a company that shared the same vison and values as Leeds Business School. Today, the seven year association with IKEA is reaping rewards and the student IKEA project has morphed into a three year scholarship deal with the university.
Every year up to 25 post-graduate students on the MA Public Relations and Strategic Communication (MAPR) and the MA International Communication (MIC) work on a research project for IKEA-normally in the form of a communications audit on an aspect of IKEA’s business to help identify and improve business performance though communication.
Teams have to pick a team leader, a client contact and tutor contact. They are then responsible for running the project, providing meeting agendas and contact reports - as would happen in a ‘live’ PR consultancy.
There are four stages in the assessment in the project:
- Outline Proposal
- Competitive Pitch to IKEA’s senior management team
- Executive Report
- 10-point Peer Assessment
Overall, the relationship with IKEA is one that continues to benefit students and help build the university’s profile with the wider business community. Students have identified that the IKEA project gave them 12 out of the 18 skills sought in graduates entering the PR profession.