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Active IQ is helping Ulster University boost its students’ employability skills by offering the chance to embed Level 2 training into their first or second year studies.

By dovetailing the training into the students’ course, they are able to manage the extra study with the full support of their tutors. Having gained their Level 2 – usually within the first two terms – most students, take the opportunity to work during university holidays and build their experience and employability skills to give them a head start once they graduate.

Having passed their Level 2, students are encouraged to select from a variety of CPD courses to develop further skills, while those who are keen to pursue a career as a PT can step up to study the Level 3 course.

Ulster University is an accredited AIQ centre so the teaching and assessment are all done in-house. Not only does this keep the costs right down for students, it also helps facilitate the smooth running of the timetable with university tutors undertaking the training and assessment work.

“The Active IQ Level 2 training is purely optional but we’re finding students in our School of Sport in particular are keen to take the opportunity,” says Dr Rachael Telford, Lecturer and Placement Co-ordinator at the Ulster University. “These vocational qualifications help us open our students’ eyes to the industry: many come here expecting to be a PE teacher but soon realise there is much bigger arena they could work in with this sizeable industry still growing and diversifying,” she says. “Having vocational qualifications and work experience definitely gives them the edge when they graduate: it’s a point of difference and shows initiative and skills that many graduates don’t have.”

Ulster University particularly likes the ‘building blocks’ offered by Active IQ that enables students to choose which courses and levels to aim for. Some students will simply stop at Level 2 but most take the chance to build on this with a view to leaving university ready to open their own PT business or gym. Others take their degree and professional qualification forwards to a variety of graduate training programmes – not just in the fitness industry – where their additional study, work experience and business acumen are welcomed.

The Active IQ qualifications appeal mostly to the School of Sport students but is not limited to this faculty: all Ulster University students are able to study for the qualifications. As a Civic University, Ulster works closely with the local community and has a number of mature students in their 20s and 30s. They are also eligible for the Active IQ training. Furthermore, Ulster is finding that some people who don’t think uni is right for them will come to them to study the Active IQ course and, once there, realise that university life and study does in fact suit them.

“Our main focus is to give students employability skills from early on and the Active IQ training is second to none in that regard,” says Rachael. Those students who show particular promise are signposted to other programmes/training/work experience locally to help boost their business acumen and teach them marketing and communications skills. “Having students on vocational courses gives us a great opportunity to engage with local businesses who welcome fresh new talent. Many students return to these businesses when they graduate, and we also work closely with the local Career Developments Centre to place students for additional training in business and entrepreneurship working with local community organisations.”

The ‘pick and mix’ options for students is very attractive to them but Rachael is at pains to point out the arrangement is not about certificate collecting: students are required to make careful choices to ensure they select CPD courses that will genuinely boost their employability.

Rachael chose to work with Active IQ as she finds its resources and manuals are superior. “Active IQ offers us a wealth of study materials and they regularly add new qualifications and update resources to ensure we are completely up-to-date with industry-relevant materials,” she says. “The team is progressive, easy to work with and quick to respond and support where needed. The eLearning format is also very welcome – not in terms of study, as we do the theory in class, face-to-face – but when it comes to marking and assessment the online software makes it much easier and saves on printing hard copies!”

“Ulster University has taken every possible opportunity for its students and they are delivering our courses with great skill, dovetailing them seamlessly into the students’ and tutors’ timetables,” says Laura Sheasby, Active IQ Head of Business Development. “These days ‘just’ a degree isn’t always enough but studying alongside a degree course can be tricky to manage. By embedding our qualifications into their programmes and teaching and assessing on site, Ulster University has tremendous scope to add great value to students’ learning and set them up for a successful future.”