Making Every Graduate Employable

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Recently, I was fortunate enough to attend Policy-UK’s Forum “Making Every Graduate Employable”. The aim of the forum was to assess some of the successful practices currently used in universities to promote graduate employability, as well as discuss the implications of the forthcoming Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) and changes to the Destination of Leavers of Higher Education (DLHE) survey. Whilst it would be impossible to transform all my learnings from the forum into a single blog post, in attempt to inform as many different stakeholders as possible, I have assembled a brief list of key recommendations aimed at students, graduates, educators, and higher education institutions, which are inspired by the various presentations and panel discussions from the forum.

So, here are my key messages for you all…

STUDENTS AND GRADUATES:

- Your future’s bright! Graduates will be in demand in the future. According to Nicola Turner MBE, Head of Skills, Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), within the next five years, 2 million more jobs will require higher-level skills.

- You have skills that employers value! By the time you leave university, you possess a whole range of skills and attributes which employers want to see in new recruits. Employers are not just interested in your academic discipline and qualification – they value the transferable skills and graduate attributes you have gained from your studies and work experience.

- Get as much work experience as you can. One third of employers surveyed in the most recent High Fliers Report (2017) repeated last year’s warnings that graduates who have had no previous work experience at all are unlikely to be successful in the selection process.

- Become more self-aware and reflective. Be aware of your strengths, and learn to reflect on how your work experience has benefited you personally and professionally. (The good news is that our employability web app SKILLS ON TAP UK can help you with this!)

EDUCATORS AND HIGHER EDUCATION INSTITUTIONS:

- Define which graduate attributes you would like to develop within all your students, and make sure these are incorporated into the curriculum.

- Embed your employability strategy within your institution’s learning and teaching strategy, in order to gain cross-institutional buy-in.

- Introduce “micro-placements” for students who can’t afford to go on long-term placements. The micro-placement scheme created by Royal Holloway University of London was mentioned as being one example of good practice in this area.

- Continue to build links with industry. Employers of all sizes and sectors want to engage directly with you and your students. Take advantage of this.

The overall message that rang loud and clear was that we – students, graduates, educators, employers, and higher education institutions – all have the responsibility to develop and shape our students’ professional development. It is a joint task, which we must collaborate on together, if we are to succeed in making every graduate employable.