So now the truth is out, that 30% of graduates never enter the “graduate” level workforce. So says the 20-year analysis of the UK’s labour force data by Elias and Purcell (Warwick Labour Force Survey) presented at the recent Westminster Forum on Graduate Employability, and if so then the current system of careers help and guidance needs a complete overhaul.
Let me make it clear from the outset that I am not blaming individual careers guidance personnel or indeed their departments. I have met many of them in the course of my work and they are well-intentioned, hardworking people, dedicated as best as they can be to trying to help.
But if a very well staffed careers guidance centre has 40 employees then how can it possibly offer in depth help and advice to 24,000 undergraduates, not to mention 5,000 postgraduates? This is especially so when currently around 7,200 of them are not going to get a decent job afterwards.
The scale of the current problem is huge and it is not going to go away.
This is what I would do if I was made a university vice chancellor tomorrow morning.
- Even before the student arrives at university I would be contacting them (and their parents too if both of them wanted that) to inform them that not only would they receive a first class academic education but they would also receive a first class employability education as well.The format of this would then be given to them immediately after Fresher’s week. Their 3-year employability learning plan would be delivered in both an e-learning and hard copy format.
- The opening chapter would set the scene by informing the student that in order to prosper in today’s tough postgraduate world it is not sufficient to just get a decent degree. Students will need to acquire and be able to demonstrate via their CV and in interviews that they are proficient in all the 10 hard and soft employability skills employers want to see.
- The only way they will be able to acquire these skills is via internships and active participation in university life. Students should be told that without decent non-academic work experience then getting a decent job afterwards will be just about impossible.
- Over the course of their 3 years they will need to gradually build up these skills. They are going to need mentoring, both real and virtual. The coaching will have to have one-to-one interactive components, not just via e-learning modules and lectures. This is especially so since you would not expect anyone to reach expert level at anything unless they had a proper integrated complete programme of help.In all elite sports these days the athlete is given a complete roadmap to how he or she can become successful. Every student needs such a 3-year roadmap and then a complete integrated package of help to achieve their aims.
- Finally, and most importantly, universities can not be expected to help every single student to get internships and/or learn the necessary soft skill sets by partaking in the non-academic side of university life. What they should be doing is showing students how they can help themselves to acquire the necessary on-the-job skill sets they will need.