Call it overdue, but it now appears that employers, educational institutes and politicians are realising that a modern economy cannot afford to embrace academia without also fostering employability. To overlook employability risks seeing a generation armed with good qualifications but failing to land a job.
Perhaps the wake up call has arisen since the onset of higher tuition fees? Maybe the cost of higher education now has alerted students to the need to get more for their money than just academic qualifications. They need their universities to help make them employable people – and that means delivering more than an academic curriculum. The students crave and need work experience, real coaching from real businesses and a record of their time in education that helps them to get a job – not to simply hold academic qualifications in their chosen field.
Or maybe it has been the results of a prolonged period where the ambitions of ‘higher education for all’ meant that we all forget that the end result was to get a job? Were we all so fixated on the path from school to college to university that the last part of that journey (into a job) was forgotten?
Perhaps we pin some blame onto the deepest recession and economic slump in a generation, where so many experienced and highly employable people found themselves on the job market that students – the next generation- were overlooked? For the best part of 7 years employers were (a) employing far fewer people and (b) able to source to their heart’s content from a pool of very experienced people who unexpectedly found themselves as jobseekers. Who needs graduate workers when you can employ someone who worked for your nearest competitor for 10 years and is now so keen to work you can acquire them for less than their previous market value?
Now, the UK is in a comparatively stronger position as it emerges from the carnage of recession, and unemployment continues to drop. Student fees are now an accepted part of the economy (albeit still unpopular) and it has not stifled input of students as some once feared. Employers are now once again understanding the importance of a good graduate intake scheme.
And the penny has dropped for the whole nation – that we risk leaving an entire generation out in the cold if the link from education to employment is not strong, resilient and supported throughout a students journey from school to college to university to a paying job.
For it is a job with a wage that is the end goal. How often have recent generations been reminded of that – when the goal was seemingly limited to the next stage of their education? The end result is to get a job, to make money, to repay the student loan, to pay taxes and make a long term, sustainable contribution to the economy, to the health service and to the education system that will host the next generation.
But thankfully that penny does seem to have dropped, and we are now seeing a rising trend of employers and educators working together more closely.
This is sometimes as simple as businesses offering coaching and advice to students – and even this is not confined to universities, with secondary schools and colleges also recognising the need to put students in touch with employers sooner rather than later. Not all students will go to the next stage in the education chain- some will get out there and look for a job. Helping students understand what employers look for and how to make yourself attractive to an employer must be seen a vital part of education.
Then there is good old fashioned work experience. No substitute for it. In some ways this area is rapidly improving. Charities, not-for-profit organisations and others in the third sector offer students a great way to not only get work experience but to also demonstrate their charitable and social responsibility attributes via voluntary assignments.
Likewise larger corporate firms find that a strong link with a university can make work experience and internships far more rewarding for all concerned.
For universities the shift of emphasis onto employability has allowed them to take stock of their offering, and to ensure that they provide good job prospects as well as a good education. Perhaps this makes higher education institutes more competitive and more commercially focussed?
The link between the employers and the educational institutes has to be real, consistent and dynamic. A couple of seminars a year does not really cut it – and this where a Talent Bank solution comes in. In one fell swoop a Talent Bank provides a school, college or university with its own in-house recruitment portal where the institution and all of its corporate and charitable partners can access talent, offer experience, internships and, ultimately paid work.
For the school, college or university this means they themselves can offer internal positions (whether paid or voluntary) to their students first, before recruiting externally, thus saving a small fortune in recruitment costs. For the business partners affiliated with an educational institute it means they too can tap into that pool of talent early on and identify the students they want to coach, nurture, train and employ – as well as giving themselves a recruitment solution that means agency fees are a thing of the past.
And the students themselves? They have a secure online profile that not only lists their academic achievements but also details all the training, coaching, work experience and employability skills they earn on their student journey. ‘A passport to employability’ is how one deputy headteacher recently described it.
Making sure each new generation is employable is clearly in everyone’s interest. Whether students are leaving school at 16, going onto college or going all the way to university – at every stage it is vital that are stepping out into the world as more employable people. People who can get jobs, earn money and make sure their generation is fully engaged and making a contribution. It is in nobody’s interests to have a ‘lost generation’ armed with qualifications but not the skills and qualities employers seek.
Keystone Employment Group is the leading provider of Talent Bank solutions to the education sector – tying employers and educational institutions together with a low cost internal recruitment portal that provides students with a rich and fully verified student and work record.
To find out more email Malcolm Paice, Chief Operating Officer of Keystone at firstname.lastname@example.org