Universities driving graduate employability

With university fees increasing and a number of employers only accepting applications from graduates with work experience, paid employment for students is on the increase. The National Association for Student Employment Services (NASES) records over 90 higher education institutions offering ‘job shop’ services that are registered on the NASES website to connect students with paid employment opportunities while they are studying. Job Shops operate in a similar way to recruitment agencies, connecting students with paid employment opportunities that are local to them and can be managed with their studying commitments.

The University of Birmingham and Worklink

Worklink is the University of Birmingham’s internal recruitment agency that connects students with paid work opportunities within the University. Worklink increases the accessibility and number of casual work opportunities for students on campus and centralises the recruitment and payroll processes.  Through Worklink students can build their skills set and work experience which will in turn increase their employability while at the same time supplementing their income while studying. Worklink was introduced in 2012 and has seen significant success, even winning an internal award at the University of Birmingham Oscars in 2013.

What challenges did the Worklink team face?

With over 38,000 students (including part time) and approximately 500 Hiring Managers involved in recruiting and managing paid student employees within the university, the process was manual and very time consuming.  In addition the processes to ensure that the students were paid for their work were also complex; a long winded paper process had to be completed and with no centralised point for management and each department responsible for filling out their own forms and completing compliance checks. Not only would this slow the time to place students in vacancies but would also regularly result in incorrectly completed forms which would need to be returned and corrected via internal mail and could result in a delay of up to a month for students to receive their pay.

With such manual processes providing quick and accurate reporting to monitor the success and effectiveness of the Worklink operation was all but impossible. In addition managing compliance and the recording of essential documentation, such as eligibility to work documentation, came with the pitfalls of any manual filing system.

The Worklink Brief

Worklink required a front end branded candidate portal that lists vacancies and allows students to register and apply quickly and conveniently from both a desktop and a mobile or tablet device, meeting the needs of today’s generation Y, technologically savvy student. The application would then need to populate the candidate record within the database in real-time and then be quickly and automatically skill-matched to any available vacancies providing a short list of suitable students for the Worklink team. A more efficient system for collecting and storing records of compliance documents, such as eligibility to work, were also needed.

To ensure earnings were paid in a timely fashion Worklink needed to provide students with a convenient way of completing their timesheets which can then be approved by the relevant personnel.  This would then need to integrate seamlessly with the finance payroll system.

Automated communication tools were a requirement so that students could be notified if they have timesheets that are waiting to be completed and stakeholders can be made aware of any timesheets that are awaiting their approval for processing. In addition communication tools were required to notify students of any suitable new vacancies that Worklink have available and to keep applicants fully informed during the application process.

The Results

Worklink appointed Eploy after looking at two other similar systems to provide an e-recruitment system that manages the application process as well as timesheet management and processing.

The implementation of the Eploy system has supported the team in achieving impressive results for Worklink. Since Worklink was launched the University has seen an increase of just under 800% in student placements in casual positions with over 28,000 timesheets having been processed via the system – saving a significant amount of time for University staff in the process.

The Worklink team have also seen a significant increase in the number of vacancies available to students – an impressive 500% demonstrating the wider impact of the system to the whole community of the University of Birmingham including its students. With a huge increase in the value of payments made to students in just over 18 months, the tangible benefits for the University and students are clearly measurable.

Students being able to access the Worklink portal to view and apply for vacancies, as well as complete their timesheets via their smartphones or tablet devices, has delivered excellent results. Almost a third of student activity is coming through a mobile device, which is the highest rate amongst Eploy’s mobile responsive clients demonstrating the importance of going mobile to the student market.

Tracy Murphy, Recruitment Manager at the University of Birmingham and a member of the NASES Executive Board has been delighted with the success of Worklink; the implementation of the Eploy system has really supported the success. The key features that have offered the greatest benefits include going paperless and everything being available online, the reporting facilities as well as having the data all in one place to provide accurate reports and the cohesion of an end to end recruitment system that integrates directly with their payroll software.

When asked if Tracy would recommend Eploy she replied “Absolutely, and I do all of the time through my work with NASES. Eploy is a user friendly system that follows a practical flow and the support team are easy to work with if any changes or help is required by my team or myself. Eploy has definitely delivered against all of my original requirements.”

The co-founders of Eploy, Chris Bogh and Paul Burgess, are both former students at the University of Birmingham, and Chris said “It was great to go back in a professional capacity and provide our expertise to Worklink and support our old University. The project was completed under very tight timescales and we are delighted to see such fantastic results for the Worklink team. The increasing commercialisation of the Higher Education sector means that Universities are required to provide market leading services to their students and graduates are facing increasing pressure to demonstrate work experience when applying for jobs. As past students it’s very fulfilling to see such demonstrable successes for both the students and the University”

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