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Employers must engage with universities to develop graduate skills

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The higher education environment is going through extraordinary changes at the moment with universities struggling 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.

As such, many universities are now selling ‘employability’ as a key USP within their marketing campaigns. 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 CBI along with the 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 per cent) of employers said that they were unimpressed by graduates’ problem-solving skills, while 20 per cent 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:

1. Engage early on

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.

2. Work with university departments 

Provide real life business case studies that academics can use within their classes, for example. Organisational development, strategy, operations case studies that your organisation has implemented – again this is a fantastic way to engage with students early on.

3. Work with career services 

Help to devise training and development programmes for your sector.

4. Visit the student campus 

Do this as many times as possible – fresher’s week, career workshops, graduate fairs etc.

Hopefully by carrying out some of the above, organisations targeting graduates will be able to contribute to the employability agenda.

Nadim Choudhury is the head of career services and employability at the London School of Business & Finance.

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