Client impressed by students: “I broke into spontaneous applause and felt goosebumps”

In a competition in the project GROWTH4SMEs, humanities students have demonstrated their competence to potential employers – and to themselves.

“The students only had 48 hours. Still, they came up with something that was at a high level within my industry. They showed a good understanding of the task and of the format,” says Magnus Nystrand, partner at Corporate Communications AS.

“It’s completely realistic that we get urgent assignments like these.” 

Nystrand was one of the clients in a competition in the project GROWTH4SMEs, in which students team up to solve a task given to them by a company. One of the students on the winning team is Tarjei Brekke. He is currently working on a master's degree in Asia and Middle East studies, with an emphasis on China.

“I realised that I can do a lot more with my degree than I thought,” Brekke explains.

Training in solving realistic assignments

GROWTH4SMEs is funded by the EU Erasmus+ programme and gives companies and students the opportunity to discover each other’s potential. The University of Oslo, Aarhus University in Denmark and UC Leuven-Limburg in Belgium are all participating. The competition, which was held in September, was the first project initiative at the Faculty of Humanities.

“We need to solve global challenges together. To do that we need interdisciplinarity, teamwork, and close cooperation with employers and their needs,” says Gunn Enli, Dean of Studies at the faculty.

“I am very grateful to the companies that provided cases for our students. This gives them training in solving tasks that they may encounter in their working life.”

Portrait of Gunn Enli

“This is not the last time that we will arrange such a case competition and we have gained useful experiences in this first round”, says Dean of studies Gunn Enli. Photo: UiO.

Fifteen teams, two tasks

A total of fifteen teams were all assigned a task. 48 hours later, they were to give a digital presentation to a jury.

Seven teams were assigned a task by the communications and content agency Manus AS to come up with a proposal for how the agency could highlight the value of visual digital services to its customers.

The other eight teams were assigned a task by Corporate Communications AS. On behalf of a fictional customer, they were asked to set up a simple analysis of the political situation in Germany. They were to examine key political players’ views on the future of energy, particularly Norwegian natural gas.

A bridge between studies and working life

Two teams, one from each group, went through to the final. Brekke’s team, which had been assigned the Germany task, went through with a presentation that was so good the client exclaimed: “The customer would’ve been happy to pay 120,000 Norwegian kroner for this!”

“I erupted into spontaneous applause and felt goosebumps,” says Magnus Nystrand. 

Dean of Studies Enli comments:

“We want to build a bridge between studies and working life and this is a project that showcases the relevance of our studies. There is an element of competition that makes it exciting, and the participants take part in trying out something new.”

Ability to structure time and information

“We are always recruiting and we traditionally seek out students from institutions such as the Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration. This gave us the opportunity to get to know students with a different background and we can definitely see that their expertise is a positive for us,” says Nystrand, before adding:

Portrait of Magnus Nystrand

Magnus Nystrand hopes that the Faculty of Humanities will continue working in this way, and he would absolutely recommend that other companies participate. Photo: Corporate Communications.

“The students at the Faculty of Humanities know languages, have a broad understanding of society and are able to structure both information and the time at their disposal.”

Tarjei Brekke was pleasantly surprised to discover just how much he knew:

“The expertise I have developed through my studies isn’t just about China. We have learned tools to analyse societal situations and politics. We have also developed skills such as the ability to write and express ourselves well.”

Seeking to raise awareness among students

Assistant Professor Siren Leirvåg is one of those with academic responsibility for GROWTH4SMEs at HF. She explains that the Faculty’s goals are clear:

“We want to make students aware of the expertise they possess, not only academically but beyond that,” she says.

Students have an opportunity to do project work in interdisciplinary teams, just as many of them are likely to do in working life,” she explains.

“Most students probably don’t think about the fact that they know teamwork already. They might yawn at the prospect of working in groups. They might also not think that they are able to manage vast volumes of information or that they know how to present a solution to a problem.”

This is something that the students do all the time, but Leirvåg doesn’t think that they realise the value it has in working life.

“If you come from backgrounds such as religious studies, languages or regional studies, you will have a lot to show for, but you need to know how to present yourself and communicate it to an employer,” she adds.

Would you like to participate? The next competition will be held in March 2022. Further information about the application process and who is eligible to participate will be published.

Logo for growth4SMEsAbout GROWTH4SMEs

The project «Graduate Ongoing Work qualification Towards offering Highly qualified skills for SMEs» (GROWTH4SMEs) is a three-year project that has just started at the Faculty of Humanities. Case competitions will be part of the project, possibly along with seminars or courses.

The Faculty of Humanities at the University of Oslo is one of four partners in the project, which was initiated by Aarhus University in Denmark. Other project partners are UC Leuven-Limburg in Belgium and Aarhus Municipality, Jobcenter Aarhus. GROWTH4SMEs is an ERASMUS+ strategic partnership project in the EU programme for education, training, youth and sport.

By Silje Pileberg