Digital skills and how university boosts yours

Written by Amanda Conway, Careers Consultant at The Careers Service

It won’t cost you money, and you don’t need to be particularly savvy to get started, so investing in your digital know-how could be time well spent, particularly given employers’ increasing focus on employees’ digital capabilities.

Whether you want to overhaul your digital know-how or just tinker at the edges, here are 5 of my favourite ways to get the transformation underway and give your skills the polish they have been looking for.

Start on campus….

The financial perks of being a student go way beyond free Domino’s pizza and student discounts. IT training and support are part of the package. Why not start with My Learning Essentials, run by the University’s library, for a series of free online workshops and training materials just for Manchester students, including ones for using search engines, databases and social media tools?

You could also try Digilab – something that has been developed by the University library where you can test out new technology or attend workshops and lightening talks. There are also Code Clubs on Thursday afternoons, if you want to learn to code or get help from other coders. Workshops include RaspberryPi, Creative Coding, and 3D Printing.  

Too busy with study? Why not get academic credit for your digital efforts through University College? With module options available for both Semesters 1 and 2, take a look at Digital Society, Artificial Intelligence, or their new module Trust and Security in a Digital World.

Alternatively, dip into the marvellous “1 minute CPD” videos helping you to improve your digital skills one minute at a time. Although written for University staff, many of the tips and ideas are great for students to use too.

Will employers help out?

Absolutely! From free training sites, to a tour of their offices and work experience, a growing number of employers are looking to bust the myths about what working in the digital sector is all about and help students to make the most of what is on offer. Maybe make a start with Accenture’s online training site – Future Learn for a range of free courses. Google’s Digital Garage is also home to free online training, coaches and help to solve your IT knowledge gaps.

Employers also offer competitions and challenges to encourage students to explore the options open to them. Some popular ones are listed here with many of them having led to internships or graduate job offers for current and former Manchester students:  

Some employers also offer insight weeks in the spring to give you a real flavour of what is possible working for them and what the work involves. You don’t need to be doing a relevant degree, just have interest and enthusiasm. Examples include Deloitte’s Spring Insight Week in Technology and Barclays’ Spring Week, with some focusing on particular groups like RBS’s Insight Week’s for females. You can see more listed on Careerslink or on the organisations’ own websites.

Let your day to day experiences work for you.

Whether you are currently volunteering with a charity, running a society or working on an internship during your university life, you can make all of these experiences work for your digital skills too. What about offering to set up or upgrade a website for your employers or develop marketing content for them through social media?  Whatever it is you are doing, look at how you are making an impact online – are you generating hits on their website, driving sales or changing behaviour? This is your opportunity to be a content creator. You could use search engine optimisation to maximise views on a site and data analytics to monitor your success rate.  Being able to use and talk about your social media expertise will get you noticed.

There is also the IDEA award enabling you to keep track of your expanding skillset. It’s a digital version of the Duke of Edinburgh scheme.

Make content that makes an impact

Whether it is blog posts, videos, or infographics – you have the technology at your fingertips.  Good online content is no longer the exclusive domain of the IT specialist. With a smartphone or a laptop you have all you need to make content for yourself, if you are not already doing so.

Have you heard of Medium? It’s a free blogging platform that helps anyone to create an accessible and easy to read blog post. If you have a YouTube account, you can edit your videos online. You can even hire cameras from the University’s Media Services team and use their full editing suite (with training available) to get the cut that you are looking for. 

Not sure where to start? For an overview of some of the key aspects of digital marketing and content creation, take a look at: “10 Digital Skills that can make students employable”

What’s going on in the City?

With digital skills being so in demand by firms across Greater Manchester, you will find a number of organisations keen to reach out to you to help bridge your skills gap or bust a few misconceptions about what is open to you.  Have you heard of meetups? Groups of people getting together who want to learn more about different things. Take a look at Code Up Manchester, a monthly meet up on the Tech pages.

To explore other opportunities in Greater Manchester start with Manchester Digital and sign up for their updates. They even have a job fair on 5th February, 2020 that everyone is welcome to attend – #MDTalentday   

You may also want to look at Code Nation and Digital Gurus, as a number of psychology students from Manchester have had year placements and graduate job roles with them in recent years focusing on IT recruitment.

…and just for the fun of it

If you want to keep it light hearted, check out @oneminutebriefs on Twitter or Instagram from a community of digital designers. They hold daily design competitions – upload your design, and if they like it, they may even buy it off you.

Tempted to explore where your digital skills could take you?

Our careers guide to roles in the IT Sector is a great place to start exploring.

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