Employer-led learning in English Language and Linguistics

We have been running a new module in the Department of English Language and Linguistics which give all of our undergraduate students the opportunity to work on a project set by an employer.

We have been working with 12 employers, including schools, barristers, speech and language therapists, PR companies, advertising agencies, literary festivals and publishers.

The students have been using their skills as linguists to work on a range of problems, from creating a leaflet to make the immigration rules more accessible to designing learning resources that help with early years learning during lockdown lessons.

Students in an online meetingStudents meet with their employer during the project work

Each of the projects has the potential to make a difference to people from all backgrounds. One group are helping the West Midlands Police evaluate their social media communication. Another are helping GPs better support patients with communication difficulties.

The potential to make a real difference to real people has helped keep the students’ engagement high. One student said, “We actually have the opportunity to try and think about real-world problems: it keeps me motivated and interested.”

The students have to work in teams and have risen above the challenges of remote learning to support one another inside and outside the scheduled meetings. They say that the opportunity to connect with each other is really helpful. As one student put it, “There is a good sense of community in what has been such an isolating time.”

We’ve had great support from our employers and from other contributors, like IBM who led a session on design led thinking so that the students could approach their projects with the users’ needs in mind. The employers have championed the students’ projects, offering mentoring support and promoting the research within their networks. This has helped the students develop their professional profiles, boosted their confidence and shows how studying for a degree in the humanities has value in so many ways.

The Professional Research Skills for Linguists module is one of the many opportunities the students have to connect their subject knowledge to the world of work. This begins in the first year, where they develop a range of communication skills from writing a press release to making an investor pitch. In their final year they can undertake a larger employer-led project in a placement module, as well as learn about Business Communication, English Language Teaching and Clinical Linguistics.