SOFABulous skills development

Lucy Mair discovers Manchester students are getting some valuable careers training and advice – and were visited by a special guest this term

We think you need more than a 2:1 to succeed in the tough graduate job market, and Manchester University's Society of Finance, Accounting and Business (SOFAB) couldn't agree more. Last term, SOFAB president Faheem Amdani organised an exciting programme of events to help students at the university develop the practical skills that you can't learn in a classroom.

SOFAB was founded five years ago with the goal of bringing investment banks, law firms and the big four professional services firms onto campus to give presentations to the society's members and hold networking events. But Faheem, a second-year economics and politics student, has taken the society in a new direction. "I've tried to focus on skills development because a lot of students are leaving university with good degrees but they don't have the business know-how or the core skills that employers are looking for," he says.

The highlight of the autumn term was a training workshop led by Melody Hossaini, candidate on BBC's The Apprentice (2011) and director of social enterprise, InspirEngage International. In the three-hour session, Melody helped 50 students develop their leadership, teamwork and project management skills through a series of presentations and interactive activities. These ranged from offering students advice for their upcoming interviews to encouraging them to practice non-verbal communication by organising themselves, without speaking, in the order of their birthdays. Melody also dished out some Apprentice gossip, and posed for photos with her fans. One of these, final year marketing student Maria Racheva, says: "I'm applying for graduate jobs and I know employers are looking for strong leadership skills, so I wanted to go beyond textbook reading to improve my abilities in this area. The event exceeded my expectations and I really enjoyed the activities."

Faheem says the workshop has been in the pipeline since he saw Melody on The Apprentice and was inspired by the work she does improving the lives of young people through skills training. He was relieved that everything went according to plan. "It was pretty much the perfect event," says Faheem. "There was a lot of demand and we sold out within three days. We probably could have sold double or triple the tickets, but we kept it small because we wanted the students to get the most value out of it." This term, Faheem says, the society will "go back to basics with bringing business on campus" by introducing students to job opportunities and helping them to improve their CVs and with interview techniques.