Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Archives and employability

As part of the ‘Profiting from Powering the World’ project, we are exploring the use of business archives in learning and research and scoping the opportunities that might be available for building the use of business archives into courses. In light of the increased focus on student employability at universities, we are running a pilot project which uses business collections as its subject material. 

Two students are working in the archives for 6 half days over a 6 week period producing web-guides (aimed at other students) for a business collection of their choice.  It was advertised to a wide range of students, not just those who wish to become archivists, as a way to develop (and demonstrate) transferable skills such as time management, reflective analysis, critical thinking, computer literacy etc. The experiences can be used towards a new scheme recently launched at Swansea University called the Swansea Employability Award. We were amazed at the amount of interest we had, with 22 students attending an introductory session, 17 of whom applied, and eventually we interviewed 6 students for the 2 positions.
So far, it is proving a very positive, and mutually beneficial, experience. It strengthens the archive service relationship with university departments and adds value to our services to students and their research at their university. It should lead to a useful web-guide on a business collection, which would hopefully explore its research potential and could increase its use. On a personal level, I had my first experience of interviewing, designing application forms etc. It was a little daunting but I learnt a lot (for example how hard it is to get the right tone for something that lies somewhere between an informal chat and a formal interview)

The student will create a piece of work which may be chosen to feature on the University’s web pages. A large part of the opportunity involves producing a reflective portfolio (on Pebblepad) in which the student reflects on their experience, and the skills developed and gained. They can use it to work towards the Swansea Employability Award, which appears on their university transcript. All of this should have a positive impact on their CV and for future interviews.

Rachael Thomas, one of the students, was ‘pleasantly surprised’ by how interesting the business records were, and found them ‘less daunting’ than she thought she would. Both students have engaged with the documents really well, and have started drawing out themes such as women and finance, industrial disputes and the effect of the demise of a company on the local environment/community. They are working on the records of Old Castle Tin-Plate Company and records of Pascoe Grenfell and Sons (Copper). As they both have different academic backgrounds and research interests, I am really looking forward to reading the web-guides they come up with.  

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