What is the value of international work experience to undergraduate sport students?
According to Andrew Critchlow for the London TELEGRAPH, in the last five years, sport now supports over 450,000 jobs in the UK, equating to a £20bn industry meaning that “in terms of industries, sport now ranks among the top 15 mainstream activities in the economy including telecommunications, legal services and utilities”. Thus, in an increasingly competitive job market, with hundreds of graduates applying for each position what is evident is that sport graduates need to significantly enhance their CV and employability by maximising on opportunities that are presented within and out-with their sport degree programmes. Employers are continually reinforcing their desire for graduates who can display a variety of transferable skills such as good communication, effective leadership, planning and research skills, teamwork, interpersonal skills, self-management and relevant work experience.
Given the global significance of sport, it is not surprising that universities are offering many international experiences to help students develop those essential transferrable employability skills. As one of only 10 UK universities currently listed as an International Student Exchange Programme member our students can exchange places at other universities that are members of the ISEP programme. Exchanges can be for a semester or a full year. As you can imagine, the chance to swap Preston for California in year two of their sports coaching degree is a very attractive prospect! Engaging with an international exchange opportunity in this way develops self-management and independence right from the outset to select, match and arrange the exchange between home and host institution. It might seem daunting at first but through this process there is nothing like enabling students to stand on their own two feet to improve their confidence and personal development.
Studying abroad can take many forms, in addition to worldwide semester and year-long exchanges many universities offer European internships through Erasmus+, summer work camps and volunteering abroad opportunities. While many students like the idea of studying abroad what they need to consider is what is the value? We advocate that it is not all beaches, sunsets and Instagram opportunities! Studying abroad can have lifelong benefits in students’ personal and professional life. They will be in an ideal situation to immerse themselves in another culture and learn the local language or improve existing skills. They can experience a new way of learning, a new outlook on their discipline, meet new people and develop an international social life and as well as building worldwide friendships.
Our most established programme was launched in 2008 by Cliff Olsson, Senior Lecturer in the School of Sport and Wellbeing. Working in partnership with Sport in Action and Zambia-based Edusport this project provides undergraduates with the opportunity to study the global value and contribution sport can make to deliver key health messages and life skills through sport. This is achieved by working with peer leaders from Sport in Action for several weeks at a time in schools and community projects and is essentially about coaching at a community level to make a differences to the lives of young people. By offering this type of international experience within the sport degrees it takes learning beyond the classroom and provides undergraduate students with an experience that underpins real learning for the real world which is a core university value.
According to Prospects, one in ten graduates employed in the UK are working as sports coaches, instructors and officials. Other occupations in the top ten include conference and exhibition managers and organisers, marketing associate professionals and fitness instructors. This illustrates further the need for sport graduates to gain a depth and breadth of skills and experiences to meet the demands of an ever-changing and challenging sport sector. By taking advantage of international opportunities, sport students can significantly enhance their career success by developing relevant, marketable skills such as problem solving, communication, patience and perseverance, determination, self-motivation, analytical and study skills. Moreover they will have bags of fun and the best time of their lives!
Leona Trimble is Academic Lead for Sports Coaching and Development at The University of Central Lancashire, Preston.
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