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York Business School: A successful case of putting theory into practice

Source: York Business School

Employability refers to readying job seekers for the changes taking place in the economy and the wider world. Today, that means getting the skills relevant to gaining and maintaining employment in a society dealing with globalisation, technology and climate change, to name a few.

It’s a big ask, but it’s one that York St John University’s is ready to take on.

With its extensive links to industry, York Business School ensures every student who walks through its gates graduates as an employable, enterprising individual. Field trips, live projects and placements set out the blueprint for this university’s success.

Source: York Business School

Here, practical experience complements theory learnt in class. Whether it’s for the Business Studies undergraduate course or the Leadership and Management MSc MBA, experiential learning is a major part of this school’s education approach.

As Dr. Rebecca Biggins, Senior Lecturer in Management says: “The experience that students get here, I think, is quite unique in in many ways and is centred around work readiness and employability…

“Experiential knowledge gained through placements, through internships, studying abroad allows them develop into graduates…who are hugely employable and they go out there and they make a real difference in organisations.”

A report by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) echoes the effectiveness of putting aside the run-of-the-mill approach of seminars, coursework, textbooks and exams that too often define the university experience, favouring, instead, a diverse range of practical work.

UKCES found that the central issue happens to be that these skills “are just not practiced widely enough” and that current assessment methods “do not measure the subjective and qualitative aspects of employability skills well.”

For students to be employable, university education must entail experiential action-learning (“using skills rather than simply acquiring knowledge, placing emphasis on trial and error, and with a clear focus on the pay-offs for the learner in employment and progression”);  work experience (a work placement in an actual business, or an authentic classroom simulation based on a real workplace); and opportunities for reflection and integration.

One of the ways York Business School brings this to its students is through live projects. From brand management to financial planning, students work alongside companies on pressing business issues. Through the York Business School Consultancy Clinic undergraduate students, postgraduate students and academics work together as consultants to  deliver genuine solutions to all types of businesses from SMEs and multinationals through to not-for-profit organisations, business start-ups and social enterprises.

Source: York Business School

York Business School is a centre for business in York, as a key player in York Business Week and the organiser of the York Top 100 businesses event, York Business School has good relationships with businesses across the region which links students with local and national employers.

The Business School has a good relationship with York-based craft brewers, Ainsty Ales. This manifests itself in a variety of benefits for students (other brands the school has close ties with include MINI, Yorkshire Bank, Novotel, Hiscox, Park Lesiure and Geneva Instruments).

With Ainsty Ales, MBA students helped plan and develop a small beer festival, also organising brewery tours, conducting an investment feasibility study and investigating into the craft beer export market.

The investigation was particularly useful to Ainsty Ales. Company owner Andy Herrington, who worked closely with the students, conducted in-depth investigations to produce a guide to exporting both within the EU and some Southeast Asian markets.

“Working with York Business School has been a very valuable experience for Ainsty Ales Brewery and a great local collaboration.  At a time when a lot of energy was being focused on physically building the new brewery, the YSJ students provided some great assistance with research projects,” says Andy Herrington of Ainsty Ales.

Another live project involved iconic carmaker MINI and York St John’s postgraduate business students.

Recently, a group of eager learners completed a live project examining the strategic brand decisions surrounding the launch of the new MINI Clubman. Students worked with representatives from MINI UK, the Cooper Group (part of Inchcape Retail) and visited the home of MINI – Plant Oxford.=

It’s a win-win situation for both MINI and York Business School students. In conducting live projects, participating in field trips and pursuing placements, students get the chance to experience the real world of business and businesses benefit from knowledge development and transfer.

Source: York Business School

Catherine Wilcox, MINI’s Regional Brand Manager started working with York St John Business School in May 2015. Initially conducting a Masterclass on MINI marketing, the brand has since forged a positive relationship with the university, largely due to the innovative, forward-thinking philosophy the community promotes.

“We have worked closely together on a number of projects including discussions on student outcomes and how best to prepare students for business life after they graduate,” says Wilcox.

Alannah Gaisford, MSc International Marketing loved working on the MINI brief, especially the trip to Plan Oxford. As she concludes: “It was wonderful to have the opportunity to learn more about the intricate workings of such an iconic brand and to have the opportunity to put theory into practice.”

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