Key professions highlighted during the Covid-19 crisis are proving a fresh attraction for future university students.
Hundreds of students took part in a virtual open day run by the University of Sunderland this month and leading academics say an increasing number are showing an interest in careers which have been dealing with the pandemic from the frontline.
Doctors, nurses, paramedics, teachers, and journalists are all currently fighting the outbreak at first hand and supporting, the COVID-19 effort.
And the university’s head of education Professor Lynne McKenna said potential students had shown particular interest in the health and wellbeing programmes, including nursing, medicine and paramedic science, as well as journalism and education.
She believes the level of interest in the current key professions highlights a growing appreciation of specific vocations.
She said: “There has never been a better time to enter the teaching profession. The new Early Career Framework for teachers, which was due to be introduced in September 2020 will, I suspect, take a slightly different form now, as schools will be required to support newly qualified teachers in a whole different way.
“Whether schools completely re-open to all pupils in September or we see a managed move to re-opening, one thing is clear; we need and will continue to need teachers.
“Alongside this, in February 2020, Gavin Williamson, the Education Secretary announced a pay increase to £30,000 as a starting salary for teachers by 2022-23. This move will make entry rates for teachers among the most competitive in the graduate labour market.
“Given the current circumstances, few would dispute the introduction of early career support and pay increase for teachers.
“During the past few weeks, we have witnessed the emergence of a new-found respect and admiration for teachers; whether this is from those parents attempting to home school or from parents of key workers who are grateful that our schools have remained open, enabling them to carry out their vital work.
“The teaching profession, as ever has risen to the challenge, providing selfless public service in these extraordinary times.
“We know that one of the key things that helps people feel safe during uncertain times is connection with other people and our schools are providing a vital service in helping children and parents feel connected to a wider community.
“It is my hope, that when the country emerges from the coronavirus lockdown, that this generation of teachers and school leaders will continue to experience new levels of public support and respect. I firmly believe that they will have the power to influence the future of education in ways that really would have been inconceivable only a few weeks ago.”
The university has close ties with the local NHS Trusts and has worked to provide staff during the crisis and has more than 2,000 students currently studying health and wellbeing-related programmes.
Sue Brent, head of the School of Nursing and Health Sciences, said these ties have created interest among students who have seen the difference health workers can make.
Sue said: “I’m delighted to see that we’ve had so much interest in our health professional programmes.
“A career in health can be fast-paced and filled with challenges. You never experience the same day twice and helping people, often at the most difficult times of their lives, can be one of the most rewarding things we do.
“We work closely with NHS trusts across the region, as well as a wide variety of health partners, to ensure we are at the forefront of providing fully-equipped and career-ready professionals.”
The University has 20,000 students based at campuses in Sunderland, London and Hong Kong, as well as with global learning partnerships in 14 countries.
The diversity of courses at the university has also attracted would-be journalists, looking to make a different contribution to the fight coronavirus.
Lee Hall, head of School of Media and Communications, added: “It’s no surprise there has been interest in media and journalism courses in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.
“As key workers, reporters and broadcasters are charged with seeking out the truth and telling the stories that matter.
“Journalists can amplify important messages and help to keep our NHS heroes safe. But the media’s role is not simply to back-up the official line. At Sunderland we support students to question the world and give them the skills to reach audiences wherever they are.
“Young people want to be valued and to make a difference in society and they recognise a career in the media can give them that. Interest in media and journalism will only grow as the need for good, accurate information increases.”