Academic career offices becoming more active

In Poland, there are 340 academic career offices at 428 universities. More than half of them have no more than one full-time employee, and still they more and actively help graduates - according to the Graduate Ombudsman report.

How universities can support students and graduates in the labour market activities, discussed the participants of the congress of academic career offices. Graduate Ombudsman's report on the activities of the academic career offices in the academic year 2014/2015 was also presented, and the Academic Career Offices competition of the National Research and Development Centre inaugurated.

Deputy Minister of Science and Higher Education Daria Lipińska-Nałęcz acknowledged that the career offices "are contact points" between universities and their environment. "They have an extremely important role - both informative and active. (Their tasks - PAP) include not only providing information about the labour market, but also meetings with employers, job fairs, counselling, workshops, soft skills trainings, monitoring the careers of graduates" - she noted.

"At the 420 universities that we had in Poland in June, operate approx. 340 university career offices" - summed up graduate ombudsman Bartłomiej Banaszak in an interview with PAP. He added that this was the second report on the academic career offices. Previous report was prepared last year, so it is already possible to notice the changes in the situation of these offices. "Certainly there are positive trends - one of which relates to job, internship and traineeship offers acquired by career offices. We recorded a significant increase. This may be due to the situation improvement in the labour market, but also increased activity of careers offices in obtaining these offers" - he said.

He added that career offices slightly more often engage in organizing training courses and workshops for students. "Another positive trend is that academic career offices are an increasingly important part of the university structure. Increasingly, representatives of career offices are invited to university bodies - for example those responsible for the quality of education. Thus there is a contact between the labour market and education" - noted Banaszak. Speaking about the percentage of people who benefit from the aid of career offices, Banaszak said: "In my opinion, this is still not a satisfactory level".

According to the report, the average career office annually provided 194 individual advices as part of individual counselling. Banaszak said that this is also due to still small potential of career offices at most universities. "Most career offices have very limited resources" - he said. The report shows that only 10 percent of university careers offices employ 5 people or more. 21 percent of academic career do not employed a single person working full-time under a contract of employment, and 36 percent career offices have one full-time employee.

To help develop the potential of these offices, during the congress the National Centre for Research and Development announced the Academic Career Offices competition implemented under the Operational Programme Knowledge Education Development. The budget of this competition is 35 million zlotys. The call for proposals will run from 16 November to 16 December 2015. Projects submitted for the competition should concern tasks related to the direct support for students, in particular, individual counselling, setting up a business, entrepreneurship coaching, mentoring and education. These actions should result in better career opportunities for students immediately after graduation.

In the National Centre for Research and Development release on the competition, Minister Lena Kolarska-Bobińska commented: "Academic Career Offices are the main intermediary between universities and employers. Some of them offer students assistance at a high level, other are still developing" - she said. She added that the competition will allow to support projects that can improve the situation of young people in the labour market.

On the other hand, Banaszak said in an interview with PAP: "I think that the National Centre for Research and Development competition is designed very well - touching aspects with which we have the biggest problem in the context of career offices. On the one hand, it is a matter of human capital in the career offices, related to the number of employees, their competence (...). And the second aspect is the issue of supporting students in active job search - including career counseling. This scale continues to differ from European standards" - he said.

PAP - Science and Scholarship in Poland