NCTJ students quiz editors on the journalism jobs market during a pandemic at first virtual Student Council conference

Undergraduate students quizzed editors on the state of the journalism jobs market during the global coronavirus pandemic at the first of four virtual NCTJ Student Council events.

Almost 30 student representatives from accredited BA degree courses came together over Zoom to meet one another and the NCTJ team on Friday, 12 February.

The students also had the opportunity to have their questions answered by Sarah Whitehead, deputy head of newsgathering at Sky News, and Luke Jacobs, editor of Kent Live, Sussex Live and new audiences at Reach PLC.

Students were keen to get advice on how to stand out from the crowd when applying for jobs and how to secure work experience and journalism careers in the midst of the pandemic.

Both Sarah and Luke emphasised that the students “will get there” and that media outlets are still hiring with exciting initiatives just around the corner.

The advice shared was to never give up when knocked back, do your research when applying for jobs and come to interviews brimming with ideas while showing off your authentic self.

The Student Council attendees were also invited to give feedback to the NCTJ about what further support they would need and how they have found studying towards the Diploma in Journalism remotely.

Suggestions for support included enhancing students’ training with additional online resources and sessions, such as exams preparation.

The NCTJ will work on these suggestions as resources are developed for students on the new customised e-learning platform, the Journalism Skills Academy, following the success of the NCTJ’s Journalism Summer School last year.

Joanne Butcher, chief executive of the NCTJ, said: “Journalism degree students are making a big investment in their NCTJ-accredited training and it’s really important they feel supported and involved in our decision-making.

“It was great to discuss their views and ideas - their feedback has a direct influence on the future shape of the industry’s training scheme.

“It was also heartening to hear how well they thought their tutors have adapted to remote teaching and how positive they all were despite the many challenges and restrictions of the pandemic.”

The students also had the opportunity to have their questions answered by senior NCTJ staff. The panel answered questions from students on a variety of topics, including the relevance of shorthand, remote exams, grading, and how the NCTJ Diploma in Journalism prepares students for their careers.

The annual conference has been split up this year to deliver dedicated events online to students in different sectors, allowing them to connect with those with similar training experiences.