CAKE (Commercial Awareness for Knowledge Exchange)

Early in Academic Year 2017/18, in collaboration with FASS and FST, the Enterprise Team developed a pilot session called CAKE (Commercial Awareness for Knowledge Exchange) to prepare students with the tools from which to build commercial awareness and understand how organisations fit together.

‘A 2017 report from the CBI/Pearson / education skills survey found that 40% of employers were dissatisfied with graduate’s business awareness.’ 

(The QAA Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Education: Guidance for Higher Education Providers, January 2018)

CAKE is a learning experience designed to give students the opportunity to develop fundamental commercial awareness before engagement with organisations through curricular placements, projects or competitions.

The Cambridge Business English Dictionary defines commercial awareness as, ‘The knowledge of how a business makes money, what customers want and what problems there are in a particular area of business.’

The CAKE sessions aim to enhance a student’s capacity to ask fundamental questions like:

  • How does this organisation create value?
  • What is the logic for why this organisation exists?
  • How does this organisation sustain itself?
  • How does it build competitive advantage in the sector?
  • How does my project/placement add value to the organisation?
The Business Model Canvas Tool

The Business Model Canvas, is a visual design tool which facilitates the visual sketching of the key building blocks of the business, allowing students to quickly and easily collaborate or work individually to get a snapshot of the organisation’s business model as a starting point for deeper exploration and questions.

This develops commercial awareness at an authentic as opposed to superficial level.

The tool is collaborative and enables individuals and teams to create shared understanding of how a business or even department in that business creates value. This might also extend to how a particular project creates value. The canvas is a visual, flexible and dynamic strategy communication tool that students can use beyond the session to: research potential employers, sketch out an early stage business idea and sketch out a vision of a future business.

Student perspectives on an earlier pilot with Careers:

‘I’ve already used the canvas since the sessions as a part of my job hunting. It has helped me see the bigger picture of how a company operates… I would definitely recommend other students to attend this type of session in the future.’ Prushaanth Kumar, BSc Hons Economics

‘Thank you for the valuable insight. Already using the thinking behind the canvas in job application and course assignments!’ Panagiotis Ioannidis, MSc Management Science and Marketing Analytics

Wider aims

Sessions developed for the faculties will contribute to:

  • Curricular outcomes through improved organisation engagement experiences and learning journeys for all stakeholders.
  • Potential for more innovative project outputs for the learner and organisation.
  • Learner placement and project experiences to contribute to the enhancement of graduate employability.

This offer is enhanced by the opportunity for students to practise these new skills in the Enterprise Team’s extra-curricular offer in the Social Learning Labs in the Learning Zone.

Sessions available for your faculty (subject to resourcing): 

CAKE20 – A session that engages students in live conversations with employers to help the student to understand the organisations business model. It can be delivered at central and faculty careers fairs to enable conversations and visual exploration between companies, and students who don’t know how to get the dialogue going

“The easily formulated questions; helped me to find out essential information without getting ‘stuck'” (Student feedback, FST Stem Careers Day 2017)


CAKE50  A 50 minute taster session to the business model canvas and how it can be used to map any organisation or sector a student may be researching for placement. Group activity with hands on learning and building on tacit knowledge in the room about a well-known organisation that has some surprising truths.

CAKE180 An interactive team based three hour dive into the business model canvas as a tool to understand the nine building blocks of a business model. In this session learners work with facilitators to first learn how to use the canvas in a rowdy, post it note collaboration, then split into teams to work together to unpick the business model of a company of their choice.

A selection of student feedback on what they liked from the December 2017 pilot:

“The atmosphere…Group discussions of case study…Informative attitude…Openness of the session…Very practical for introduction to business models…Great to work in a group…Communication!”

Find out more…

Any Course Conveners, Employability Champions, HODs, member of the Careers team interested in exploring this offer to develop their student’s commercial awareness in preparation for engagement, or job searching please get in contact with Simon Harrison, Programme Manager or