Building a first-class student experience in university town
As this is the first article from the Oban: A University Town (OaUT) team this year, it is a chance to reflect on what the project achieved in 2018 since the successful launch event at the Corran Halls.
2018 was the Year of Young People, so launching the OaUT programme in the same year provided a platform from which to build a first-class student experience for Oban’s current and future alumni. There were more than 1,000 students studying in the Oban area in the 2017-18 academic year, which has a significant positive impact on the local economy.
Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) recently published its survey into the attitudes and aspirations that people aged 15 to 30 years have about the region. The encouraging headline message is that since 2015 there has been an increase in the number of young people who want to live and work in the Highlands and Islands.
This is, of course, positive news for developing the university town, but there is still work to be done in raising awareness of the many opportunities available for school-leavers wanting to stay, as well as encouraging people into the area. The Young People theme has been at the forefront recently, with employer/student engagement taking centre stage.
The November Oban Times article was contributed by the project’s student representative from the Scottish Association of Marine Science (SAMS) UHI; a focus group of Oban High School students provided valuable insights into their expectations of a ‘student town’ and at SAMS UHI Careers Week, there was an opportunity to explore graduate employment opportunities.
The high school event provided a great opportunity to spend time with young people and talk through their perceptions around why they would or would not want to stay in Oban for further studies.
They were a great group with a diverse mix of aspirations from apprenticeships through to forensic science degrees.
Within the OaUT programme, an important focus is on making sure academic development aligns well with skills needs - such as
the current emphasis on the requirements of the marine industry - and relevant employment opportunities for students and graduates who wish to stay and make their careers here.
One option which businesses, social enterprises and aspiring graduates could consider is graduate employment programmes, such as the ScotGrad Programme, which has provided many businesses and social enterprises in the Highlands and Islands with access to talented graduates, fulfilling business needs and providing a vital first step on the careers ladder for graduates.
The student summer placement programme is another option which provides paid employment for undergraduates. More information on these options can be found at www.scotgrad.co.uk.
Morven Gibson, general manager of South West Mull and Iona Development (SWMID), said: ‘SWMID takes an innovative approach to community development and employing a graduate with ScotGrad’s support is proving invaluable in moving two of our potentially transformational projects forward.
‘Graduates bring a fresh pair of eyes, coming up with new ideas and suggesting how things can be done differently or better. The ScotGrad programme helps to attract new talent into organisations and offers graduates an excellent opportunity to start their career in the region.’
The OaUT project team is grateful to The Oban Times for providing us with the opportunity for these monthly updates and we look forward to keeping readers informed of progress in the coming year.
We would like to offer all our project partners and those of you in the wider community who have supported us our best wishes for the exciting 12 months ahead. #loveobanlovelearning!
2017-18 saw more than 1,000 students studying in the Oban area.