Employability at the Heart of Higher Education
Employers must engage more with universities in developing graduate skills sets.
By Nadim Choudhury
The higher education environment is going through extraordinary changes at the moment with universities competing to attract the best and brightest students. Moreover, with the introduction of higher tuition fees, students for the first time are starting to demand more from their universities – especially in regards to employability.
Employability is no longer about finding a job but more about helping students learn a range of life skills that will carry them through to the world of employment. Universities cannot do this alone and need the support and engagement of employers from very early on.
For the last two years, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) along with the National Union of Students (NUS) have been lobbying universities to get their act in gear, especially in regards to the provision of structured employability schemes for their students. The results of this pressure, along with new guidelines surrounding employability from the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA), has seen a shift to a more desired effect with universities focusing on providing schemes to improve employability prospects.
However, in a recent survey by the NUS/CBI almost one-fifth (19%) of employers said that they were unimpressed by graduates’ problem-solving skills, while 20% found that graduates lacked team-working skills. Even though such employers have these concerns, they are not doing enough to work with universities in helping to solve this problem.
At LSBF we have embedded employability at the heart of everything that we do with our students. Students on our undergraduate and postgraduate programmes have employability workshops as mandatory aspects of their curriculum.
My advice for employers targeting graduates is as follows:
- Start engaging with your partner universities very early on in the recruitment cycle by making sure that your brand is visible on campus. Consider hiring a student brand ambassador to help spread your brand on campus.
- Work with university departments and provide real life business case studies that academics can use within their classes, for example. Organisational development, strategy and operations case studies that your organisation has implemented – again this is a fantastic way to engage with students early on.
- Work with career services in helping to devise training and development programmes for your sector.
- Visit the student campus as many times as possible – fresher’s week, career workshops, graduate fairs etc.
By carrying out some of the above, organisations targeting graduates will be able to contribute to the employability agenda.
Nadim Choudhury is Head of Career Services & Employability at London School of Business & Finance (LSBF)
A version of this article has been published by the Real Business Magazine.