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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Future fit: preparing graduates for the world of work
Article Type: Research news From: Education + Training, Volume 52, Issue 4
The partnership between UUK and the CBI have produced a second report on graduate employability. The report provides findings from an extensive survey of employers and students. It also includes a number of case studies drawn from universities and leading graduate employers.
The following are key extracts from the report:
When senior executives were asked to rank the most important factors they consider when recruiting graduates, employability skills came out on top (see: www.asetonline.org/documents/CBIandUUK-FutureFit-PreparingGraduatesfortheWorldofWork.pdf).
Students and universities should be aware that employers place a huge value on these skills, which will help graduates secure jobs after graduation, where competition is now higher than ever due to the economic downturn.
Employers are very happy with the IT skills among graduates entering the workplace. It is also encouraging to see that businesses are generally satisfied with the degree to which graduates have acquired the majority of the other employability skills (see: www.asetonline.org/documents/CBIandUUK-FutureFit-PreparingGraduatesfortheWorldofWork.pdf). But, satisfactory should not be seen as good enough. There is no room for complacency when relatively small proportions express a high degree of approval. There is also some dissatisfaction (35 per cent) in terms of graduates’ awareness of business and customer issues (only 8 per cent rate themselves as being highly satisfied) and also in relation to the level of self-management skills graduates possess (20 per cent not satisfied), suggesting a need for improvement.
As part of this report an online survey of undergraduate students was conducted to capture their views on employability. The survey was completed by a sample of over 880 students at 20 universities from a wide geographical spread. The survey paints an encouraging picture with regard to students’ appreciation and development of employability skills – but also raises a number of important issues:
Most students are confident they know what employers are looking for – recognising that employability skills, work experience and a positive attitude are highly prized.
The majority of students feel they have well developed employability skills – but there are particular concerns with numeracy and business awareness.
Many undergraduates have participated in specific programmes to improve their employability skills – but there is still significant unmet student demand.
Findings from the survey confirmed that businesses in the UK have strong relationships with universities. The majority (84 per cent) of larger firms, with 5,000+ employees have links with universities – and 10 per cent plan to develop links in the future. Three quarters (74 per cent) of companies who have university links do so to provide work experience placements for graduates – this is more important for companies in certain sectors (e.g. construction) where the practical nature of the workplace makes work experience very important. It is encouraging to see business playing its part to help graduates develop the skills which are the focus of this report. Businesses see a number of benefits from engaging with universities, the main one being the ability to attract high quality graduates and post-graduates.
The survey also suggests that small businesses are struggling to make links with universities. There are 4.3 million SMEs in the UK accounting for almost three fifths (59 per cent) of employment. Findings suggest that a smaller proportion of these businesses currently have links with universities – only half of businesses with between 50 and 199 employees have university links, compared to 84 per cent of the largest employers which responded.
Some of the key recommendations of the report are:
More universities should provide a dedicated resource focusing on the development of employability skills as part of degree courses, and use it to build long-term relationships with employers.
More employers should offer work experience opportunities to students.
Students should address employability issues from day one of their course, taking up the opportunities that are offered and regarding the acquisition of employability skills as a key part of their university experience, not an optional extra.
The full report can be downloaded at: www.asetonline.org/news.htm#futurefit