Four years ago a joint Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and University UK report showed that employers were dissatisfied with graduates preparedness for the workplace. Last week, YouGov research revealed that not much has changed: employers still think the graduates they get are not ready for work.
Back then, as now, employers said improving graduates’ employability skills should be a top priority for universities. All agree that we have to move away from the old university education model where a graduate’s experience at university is largely academic – it now needs to be equally about developing the employment skills employers need.
As clearly seen in the YouGov research, universities that rank high do not necessarily live up to that ranking when it actually comes to helping graduates to get jobs so, unless you’re a graduate after an academic career, the criteria for choosing a university needs to change.
What an employment plan should do
The features of a good university in today’s business climate cannot be purely left down to its capacity for research and thought, though these are still extremely important. Graduates need to be asking universities about their employability skills provision and about what type of employment plan the university will help them put in place so they can emerge competitive, equipped and work-ready.
This is key since industry think tanks like the CBI and University UK say graduates need to be engaged in programmes to help them develop their employability skills if not before university then certainly from day one of starting university. Graduates need to consider a university’s activity on employability skill development when making their choice on where to study.
Employability training that’s not up to scratch
But it doesn’t end there. The problem highlighted by the survey is that many universities do some sort of employability skills training but their programmes just aren’t doing the job – or rather, helping graduates to get one.
And here is another issue. The survey reports that the percentage of graduates that do get jobs range from a poor 44 per cent to a reasonable 89 per cent but the definition of ‘progression’ includes moving onto further study. This means that the number of graduates that actually get a job is likely to be even lower.
So not all employability skills programmes run by universities are useful. Some have been simply bolted on in a bid to attract graduates onto courses so you need to know what to look out for when asking universities about what they offer.
In part two of this article we take a look at what you need to look out for when choosing a university that offers good support in helping graduates to develop their employability skills and in preparing them for the workplace.