Let’s teach graduates how to be employable

Aug 15, 2013

Universities that don’t help grads get jobs are headed for closure

When will universities wake up and look at the glaringly obvious answer to what graduates really need?

A university careers service that helps them find employment.

Another report out this week on student finance shows that more students than in 2012 are struggling to make ends meet. Lloyds TSB’s third annual Student Finance Report shows that the average deficit for a student is expected to be around £16,909 on completion of their course – but contrast that with the £27,796 estimate for first year undergraduates.

Eighteen per cent do not have enough money to get through the month, 38% are only just meeting their monthly outgoings, over half believe they will complete their university course with a debt of over £10,000, and 51% are now working full or part time compared to 48% the previous academic year. The worrying effects on students’ lives do not end there: 29% of those who worked during term time in the past academic year admit that it has affected their studies in a negative way, compared with 25% in 2012.

The report highlights the daily reality of lives blighted both by debt and uncertainty over firstly, how long it will take to find a job, and secondly, whether they will ever find one that pays an income sufficient to clear their debt once they graduate.

Teach graduates how to be employable

The huge investment students and their parents are making for the privilege of a university education is crippling and universities must play a greater role to support graduates to find the employment they will need to pay off these debts.

Yet our research over the past four years of working with graduates shows that the overwhelming majority do not find the help they receive from their university careers service helps them.

They still leave university unsure of what employers want from them, a fact research from the CBI has attested to.

Is anyone listening?

A few months ago, Sir David Bell, the vice chancellor of Reading university, said it is not the job of universities to teach graduates how to get a job; they exist to give students an education, but it is going to have to be absolutely essential if students are going to get a graduate level job. We already have reports of universities around the country facing closures, mergers and battles against student shortfalls, while those from abroad are working just as hard to attract students from the UK. The Lloyds TSB report reveals that 40% of first year undergraduates said that the cost of increased tuition fees this year was a factor in their decision about which university to study at, with 11% identifying it as a key factor.

But is anyone really listening? No university has taken the bull by the horns and decided that they’ve got to start helping. The university that sits up and says, ‘Every student that comes to study with us will get a career plan on how to get a job when they come out the other side’ won’t have a problem with attracting them. Responding with more serious job support would add more value to any university course.

This will at least avert some of the fears students feel as they leave university to face a future in debt.

Smart universities would teach job skills

Universities, if they are smart, will respond with an effort to help allay fears over debt by teaching graduates how to become employable. Academic skills alone isn’t hacking it any more Sir David Bell. They need to learn business awareness, communication, self management and other employability skills employers need. They need to learn how to sell their achievements, how to research companies, how to present themselves at interview and how to ask for the job – skills to help them get the graduate level job for which they have invested thousands and thousands of pounds in income, loans and savings in the pursuit of a university education.

Perhaps when students start voting with their money the laissez-faire approach our universities have to career support will change and they will start providing the sort of help graduates need to get proper jobs.

Image Credit: SMBcollege

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