How universities can support students to be job ready

Jessica Montgomery gives TJ a few tips for getting graduates ready for their entry to the workplace. 

Reading time: 4m 30s.

A report by Economic Modelling, released earlier this year, stated that higher education is not keeping pace with the ever-changing job market. In other words, when students are studying for their degrees or post-graduate courses, the content they are learning is not necessarily reflective of the needs of employers once they come to finding a job.

The report states ‘while most students emerge from higher education (HE) with a solid academic grasp of their discipline, all too often they are not deemed ‘work-ready’ by prospective employers.’

This is clearly impacting employers who may hire graduates through various schemes or simply hiring a new employee straight out of education. Unless they have other work experience opportunities to accompany the degree, it can be difficult to know exactly what social and practical skills they can bring to the table.

It’s important that universities play their role in supporting students to become career ready. It’s very easy to say that during academic study, students are responsible for their extracurricular learning opportunities.

However, to decrease students’ potential inability and boost confidence, universities have a role to play too. Let’s take a look at some of the options that are available to universities to bridge the gap between academic learning and the world of work.

Strengthening links with the community

This isn’t an issue which has sprung up in the last year or so, and great effort has gone into addressing the problem in recent years by universities. However, more can be done to bridge the gap for students between academic learning and understanding the world of employment.

To decrease students’ potential inability and boost confidence, universities have a role to play too.

Within universities, there is a real need to strengthen links with industry and community contacts. Not only does this make the university courses more relevant to the ‘real world’ in some sense, but it provides students with an understanding of the world around them, the opportunities available and potentially helps create better informed decisions regarding their careers in a chosen sector. 

Hosting workshops during term

Careers fairs can be a useful way for students to explore a range of different sectors in one day and open their eyes to array of roles out there. However, the meaningful conversations can sometimes be limited due to the vast amount of people to speak to on the day both from the employer and student perspective.

Therefore, another way for universities to have these meaningful and more targeted conversations and relationships can be through hosting free workshops with key organisations in the local community.

For example, a careers adviser could get in touch with a local tech start-up who could host a short lecture about what they do or free workshops across the university for students to attend.

This could be a really useful and interactive way for students to engage with not only those in the local community, creating positive contacts, but explore a career of interest in a lot more depth and hear first-hand what a ‘day in the life’ would be like.


Furthermore, it helps students understand the skills that are necessary for a particular sector, eliminating any misconceptions that their education through the degree and relevant skills gained through this, will be enough for a job in the particular field.

Establishing the right environment

Another way for universities to help students identify the key skills they need to succeed is by replicating the working environment.

Setting up an ‘agency-style’ learning environment within the university – whether that’s managed internally or sourced externally – will help students experience first-hand what their chosen career entails and make them aware of what skills and expertise they need to develop before applying for a job.

After all, the concept of a ‘safer pair of hands’ seems to be big for employees when it comes to the day-to-day workplace environment, and this is particularly essential with the cost of a poor hire being high.

University students may be able to demonstrate a certain set of skills, but company culture and the ability to demonstrate working in and adapting to particular environments is just as important. Recreating these environments ahead of time allows students to understand how to best prepare and demonstrate the capabilities and skills employees will be looking for.

Creating summer courses

Students should also engage with those in the local community through short term courses through the university. These are often very helpful schemes for international students to feel more comfortable with the university and gives them that extra time to settle in.

However, this is not their only use. Universities can partner with companies in the community to host summer schools which could be short, intense courses to further boost students’ skills for the world of work.

These could be on one certain topic such as a masterclass for PR and marketing or how to create a website for a business. The flexibility of the courses makes them incredibly appealing for universities to host.

Not only will summer courses benefit students to help them understand a certain subject better or give them a booster when it comes to certain skills, but it helps the universities to build these long-lasting partnerships too.

Higher education is said to not be keeping pace with the ever-changing job market which can clearly impact an employer’s training plans when an employee is hired. Although the responsibility can be deflected to the student to find opportunities, universities can still play a role in aiding this process.

There are plenty of options out there for universities to create partnerships with companies in the local area. Not only does this benefit the university but it ultimately prepares students for the world of work and eases the training requirements for employers when they hire for positions.


About the author

Jessica Montgomery is partnerships director EMEA for RED Academy


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