Blog post

The University of Derby Futures Award

My name is Lauren, I study two subjects – English and Education Studies. I wanted to share a little bit about a fantastic opportunity I recently have experienced, the Futures Award. Let me begin. 

By Lauren Marr - 24 June 2021

Futures Awards explained 

I had only heard of the Futures Award briefly in my first year at university. I had very little idea of what it was or what I would have to do for it. But, during the pandemic, I felt like I needed something new to focus on, so I decided to take the leap and begin the Bronze Futures Award with a ‘learn as you go’ mindset. Luckily, there was so much more support and advice than I thought possible.

The Futures Award recognises co-curricular, employability-related activities that students take part in. There are three aspects to the Futures Award: your hours log, webinars, workshops and employer presentations, and your reflection/ assessment. There are also three levels to the Futures Award: Bronze, Silver, and Gold. There is also an element called the Employability Futures Award. This is for students who do not have placement/​volunteer/​work hours to put into a Futures Award.

The start of my journey

The Bronze Futures award requires 25 hours of activity, 15 of these hours being in one activity. I decided to start simple with my Bronze Futures Award and use the hours I had generated from my part-time job at McDonald's to fulfill the full 25 hours.

Doing this made me realise how many skills I had gained, despite what people told me daily. It was not just about flipping burgers but, instead, I recognised that I was interacting with people, problem-solving, and being efficient while thinking on my feet along with so many other things that are relevant in other workplaces.

While this was quite eye-opening for me to write about for the opening of my Futures Award journey, I knew I wanted to use this as an opportunity to do as many things as I could towards my dream job working in a publishing house.

Building on my skills and knowledge

The Careers and Employment Service host webinars and workshops as part of the scheme, so I took the opportunity to get fully involved to build my skills and knowledge and self-develop further. Not only were there talks to discuss how to create a standout CV or advice on how to build resilience, but there were also talks from employers, including publisher Harper Collins, who spoke about what I could be doing now to have the best chance of making it into the publishing industry. Throughout the entire Futures Award, you will have to attend seven of these talks – that is two for Bronze, four for Silver, and one for Gold.

Stepping it up with work experience

For the Silver Futures Award, you need to do 40 hours of activity, with at least 25 of these being in one activity. The hours from your Bronze Award, if you went over 25 hours, will also count towards this. For instance, I had done 27 hours for my Bronze award so, when I began my Silver Award, I was told I had 38 hours left to complete.

For my main activity, I gained a placement within the University of Derby’s Communications team. I absolutely loved my time within this team. I was drafting social media posts, editing blog posts, creating quotographics, and discussing various topics in team meetings. It was so much fun to feel like part of the team in a career field that I was excited about and interested in. I cannot thank the Communications team enough for this opportunity and hopefully one day I can work with them again.

To complete my Silver Futures Award, I used some of the hours I had spent developing my own blog where I review books, discuss bookish topics and, most recently, discuss my (rather overly hopeful) readathon plans. I am glad that I used my blog as part of my Futures Award as, when I received feedback on completion, Val Derbyshire, Lead Engagement Officer for the Futures Award scheme, emailed me to say she had taken the time to read some of my blog posts and enjoyed them which made me feel so happy and encouraged me to continue to write.

Going for Gold

So, after completing my Bronze and Silver awards in the space of two months, Gold didn’t seem too daunting. Until I read that you need 50 hours in one activity - eek. While I could have used my part-time job for these hours again, I wanted to move into more publishing-related activities to support my own development to achieve my goals.

I decided to complete the other hours first using the time I spent creating a talk for the annual Education Symposium organised by Jade Murden, Senior Lecturer in Education Studies, and the hours I spent working as a volunteer typesetter for The Publishing Post. Both activities helped me gain confidence, as well as new talents. The first gave me confidence in public speaking and individual research while the latter introduced me to an entirely new skill of typesetting using a software, InDesign, that I had never used before. Now, I feel confident using InDesign for similar projects and I feel I can ask for help without feeling embarrassed. Everyone starts somewhere.

After some thought, I now have the idea for the final 50 hours of my Futures Awards and I hope to complete this during the first half of my final year as an undergraduate. A group of students and I are reinstating the Publishing Society and I am going to be the President. I am very excited to work on this project and use the skills I have learnt through all the activities mentioned above, I know they will help the society run smoothly. Societies are a great way to add hours to your Futures Award so, if you are interested, why not get in touch and join us.

Overall, the Futures Award has shown me an entirely different side to the University. You can just come and complete your studies if you want, or you can immerse yourself working for the University, meeting new people and making new connections. I cannot wait to receive my Higher Education Achievement Record (HEAR) certificate and see the words ‘Futures Award’ written upon it. This experience has truly been one of the best things I have done at University.

About the author

Lauren smiling in front of a bookcase.

Lauren Marr
English Literature student

I’m Lauren, a third-year undergraduate student majoring in English Literature with an interest in social media and marketing.