It’s always been important for graduates to have a range of practical and professional skills alongside the subject knowledge that they gain from their degree. Of course, skills like visual literacy, critical thinking, and the ability to construct a persuasive argument are part and parcel of doing a degree in History of Art. But we are also keen to embed employability more explicitly into the curriculum. That’s why this year we are launching an exciting new optional module for second year undergraduate students that includes a placement in a local arts organisation.
Embedding employability into the curriculum has been shown to help students make the connection between what they are learning in the classroom and how they might use those skills beyond University, in the workplace. It can also widen access to employability development for those students with little extra-curricular time, whether because of paid work, sporting obligations, or caring commitments. The Professional Placement module allows students to spend time that they would have been in the library, in the workplace.
As part of the module, students will undertake a series of on-campus workshops focused on transferable skills, applications and interviews, self presentation, and research into specific careers sectors, followed by an eight-week professional placement at one of our partner arts institutions. So far, Nottingham Contemporary, New Art Exchange, Primary, and Quad are all on board, and we are in conversation with more museums, galleries and art spaces.
The Arts Professional Placement module will enable students to develop transferable skills, gain valuable experience, and cultivate professional networks, as part of their degree. Spending time in a professional environment can also open students’ eyes to the range of careers on offer, from curating to fundraising, marketing to education. Getting some “behind-the-scenes” knowledge builds confidence as well as strengthening students’ future job applications.
The module, supported by the University’s Careers and Employability Service, includes workshops and advice on writing job applications, self presentation, and research into specific careers sectors. Students are encouraged to reflect on their placement experiences in order to draw up their own personalised skills map and plan that will be of great value as they move into their final year, and beyond as they apply for a job in one of the many careers fields open to History of Art graduates.
Dr Lucy Bradnock (Assistant Professor, History of Art)