On Friday 21st March we held our first undergraduate conference. This was the culmination of a lot of discussion, planning and organisation over the past year, where a simple idea about how we could help prepare students ready for the next year grew to a full day event with visiting speakers, sessions specific for each year group, a volunteering fair and all staff from the department.
The day started for students just before 10 o’clock. Fears about attendance were very short-lived when the queue to enter the main hall was seen stretching back into the main reception at iZone. About 300 students came in for the start of the day, which commenced with a brief talk by Dan Heggs, the Programme Director, who introduced the conference and how it was meant to support students into the next stages of their academic career,s and to help us all think about skills and employability. Jenny Mercer then gave the morning keynote talk, entitled “The Benefits and Functions of Volunteering … and doing this as a student.” Jenny discussed on-going research being conducted by staff at Cardiff Met that focuses on reasons for volunteering. Many students now complete volunteer and work placements in order to develop experience and to have something on their CVs for future employers. However, a key point, Jenny argued, was that altruism remained an important reason for wanting to undertake a placement, stating that psychology students often want to help others.
After some questions from the audience, the three year groups separated. The first years had sessions about possible volunteering placements for the next academic year and how to apply. The second years found out more about final year projects and option modules for their final year, and the third years had sessions about careers, graduation and on-going support from Cardiff Met and the alumni office.
At lunch there was a volunteering fair. We had stands from 14 organisations that have worked with us in offering placements to students. Additionally, the Careers Development Service, GoWales and the Student’s Union all attended and talked to students about how they could support students and then continue to support graduates. The departmental Psychology Society was also relaunched by students, including a competition to win tickets to attend the British Psychological Society’s Annual Conference.
At the end of the day Dan Heggs thanked all students and staff for coming along and supporting the day, and especially thanked Alison Walker and Shamima Kuddas Hussein for all the hard-work they had put into preparing the event and making it a success.
For the closing session Pete Reddy from Aston University gave the keynote talk, called “Employability, work placements and your brilliant career.” Pete discussed employability and skills, and emphasised the importance of placements in developing skills and long-term work prospects. Pete’s talk left us all with much to think about but also with a sense of the possibilities and opportunities for our students as they prepare for their careers, whatever those might be.
Feedback from the first Volunteering and Placement Conference has been really positive. We have now started thinking about we will do to make next year’s event even bigger and better.