Employability should be central aim of higher education, says new report

Enhancing the employability of graduates is a key aim of the new green paper on higher education, which has been recently published.

The Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) report: Employability: Degrees of Value, argues as institutions have a good record of developing these attributes, they could go further by increasing the awareness of students before, during and after their courses.

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The author of the report, Johnny Rich, a higher education and careers consultant and Chief Executive of Push, a not-for-profit organisation that runs employability training sessions in schools, colleges and universities, said it was not about reducing universities to career conveyor belts.

“It is at the heart of higher education’s impact on society, on culture and on the labour market. Indeed, it is a hallmark of universities’ contribution to the public good.

“As well as improving graduates’ readiness to work and resilience throughout their careers, Rich suggests a common model for employability delivered through a scoring mechanism for the transferable skills that students develop as a consequence of any course.

“Such a model, couched in plain English terminology, could help HE institutions support their students’ learning without placing inappropriate burdens on academic staff. The paper also argues students could make better course choices and achieve better fitting careers,” he added.

Kirstie Donnelly, UK Managing Director of City & Guilds, said agreed that young people were not being properly prepared for the workplace.

She said: “There is a worrying gap between the career expectations of today’s teens and the recruitment reality they are likely to face, including that university is not necessarily the best route into a job. We recently surveyed 14 to 19 year olds, and found that almost 70 per cent planned to go to university despite only 30 per cent of available jobs forecast to be graduate roles. We need vastly improved careers advice in schools and we need to have an honest conversation with young people about where the jobs of tomorrow are going to be and how they can acquire the skills needed to succeed in them.

“HEPI is right to say that employability should sit at the heart of university tuition, alongside the wider goal of providing a life-enriching, perspective-broadening education. But in truth, employability should start long before freshers’ week – it should begin at secondary or even primary school. And whether a young person is in higher education or on a workplace training scheme such as an apprenticeship, we need to be teaching them everything from technical skills to ‘soft skills’ to understanding of the workplace. We will do the next generation a grave disservice if we fail to create an education for all that meets the needs of the 21st century workplace with a different approach to nurturing, creating, and growing talent.”


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