Student Employability - Issue of the Week - 7th December, 2012

The number of permanent job appointments has risen for the first time since May.

Whilst encouraging, vocal parts of industry remain worried about the employability of UK graduates. In particular, McKinsey report that 40% of vacancies remain unfilled because employers cannot find the right graduates, echoing concerns aired by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) last month.

What we should do

UK universities should continue to broaden the range of experiences they offer students, whilst maintaining the very highest academic standards. That way our universities will turn out increasingly employable graduates with a range of practical skills and expertises. 1994 Group member, Institute of Education, came top in the most recent graduate employability rankings—with 100% employment within six months of students' graduation.

The Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR)—developed by Leicester University's Vice-chancellor Sir Bob Burgess—is movement in the right direction. The HEAR is an electronic certificate issued to students alongside their traditional degree classification that provides a detailed record of their academic and extracurricular activities; this might include lists of departmental prizes, student union involvement, and sporting achievements. The HEAR encourages students to engage in a wider range of activities while at university and offers employers a more rounded picture of graduates' aptitudes.


But we can do more.

Firstly, universities should forge meaningful, long-lasting links with industry and international HEIs. Industrial placements and foreign exchanges offer students a range of new learning experiences—they offer students the opportunity to get hands-on experience at the sharp end of business, and the opportunity to engage with divergent cultural perspectives.

The 1994 Group have taken the lead on both fronts with high proportions of students studying abroad and taking placement years in industry. Recently, the University of Essex, a 1994 Group member, abolished tuition fees for students during period of study abroad—and they offer these students generous scholarships as well.

Secondly, we must collect more detailed employment data to benchmark the success of current and future employment schemes. Current data is shallow and thinly spread; the Destination of Leavers from Higher Education survey (DLHE) polls graduates only 6 months after graduation. Whilst providing a useful snapshot of graduate activity, on its own it does not produce a sufficient reflection of the longer-term employment prospects of graduates.

If we implement these changes successfully—and the jobs market remains sturdy—we should be able to offer our graduates a firm and assured path into employment.

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