MBA students embark on new professional development programme with ‘Race to the Pole’

Monday 23 October 2017


In addition to gaining academic skills and knowledge, students at Coventry University London have the opportunity to undertake a number of activities designed to develop career plans, improve professional skills, and increase employability. A new professional development programme was made available to MBA students starting their course in October 2017, in order to prepare students for their future career from the moment they begin their course. Co-designed with Profitability, students started this programme with a ‘Race to the Pole’ challenge, designed to be a fun and interactive way to develop industry competencies which employers are looking for.

Race to the Pole started with students being split into groups of five, before being introduced to an external coach assigned to their group. The challenge involved an interactive game with the task of crossing a board from pole to pole, while faced with a number of obstacles. In order to advance past these obstacles, students needed to complete a number of challenges, each designed to elicit a different behaviour and demonstrate skills where students already have strengths or could improve, with one student nominating themselves as leader for each challenge. One challenge involved a team member building a structure with only partial instructions from their teammates, while another involved working as a team to build a tower out of paper cups without touching the cups with their hands.

The game lasted 1 hour 15 minutes, during which each group of students had to work as a team to manage their time, complete challenges and develop a plan in order to reach their goal. Each session was filmed, with the coach equipped with technology enabling them to take note of when each team member displayed one of a number of industry competencies, or when they could have improved. Following the session, students received the video of the session, along with the times the coach noted for the individual, in order to watch themselves exhibiting these competencies.

Before the game started, students had been asked to define what they would consider success in the challenge, and following the completion of the game, the coach engaged with the students to reflect on the session. One of the key points the students raised was that they felt their communication skills had developed, with the coach highlighting that as the session progressed the students interacted more as they tried to work well as a team and achieve their goals. Other skills that were highlighted were time management and creativity in finding solutions to problems.

Gareth Lewis, Head of Business Development said:

"The new skills assessment programme for MBA students has been a tremendous success with students enjoying learning about their strengths and areas for development through a simulation and then individual feedback from professional coaches.  Student feedback has been exceptional; not only have they enjoyed a 'real business experience' very early on in their MBA but they are now looking forward to working with the Careers, Employability and Enterprise team on continuing to develop their skills."

Race to the Pole represents the start of the new professional development programme for MBA students at Coventry University London. Following this session, students are invited to a one-to-one discussion with their coach to reflect on how they performed in the challenge, how they can improve, what skills they want to gain and what they can do to work towards that. Students are able to take part in additional sessions during the course of their study in order to continue to build their skills and learn how to incorporate them into their professional life.