I was recently reading an article in the Guardian Higher Education supplement about recruitment in the graduate market. It was drawing a very gloomy picture of this year’s intake, estimating a 25% decrease in positions that will be available to graduates, together with a freeze of starting salaries on offer. This made me wonder whether universities are doing enough – if anything at all – to actively support their students through these tough times and direct them to alternative routes.
Can universities help?
In my opinion, universities can and must help. Here are a number of suggestions, although the list is by no means exhaustive:
- Create some sort of ‘skills sessions’ which will help students get an idea of what soft skills employers are looking for. This is particularly relevant to those looking for a graduate job in the current market
- In line with the above, incorporate more practical elements in modules. Theory is great and useful but no employer will ever judge a candidate on his or her knowledge of theory, unless of course the candidate is applying for an academic-type job.
- Actively help students have a plan B (and if necessary, even a plan C) by pointing them to alternative directions that may suit their professional goals. Alternatives can range from volunteer work and internships to working abroad, pursuing further studies and starting their own business
- More courses offered at universities need to include industry placements. Competition is fierce and some sort of industry exposure is not only valued but expected by most employers nowadays. Unbelievable as it may sound, I know of graduates who have been rejected from graduate, entry-level jobs due to lack of relevant experience.
- Offer mentoring schemes, ideally with alumni and/or peers who have managed to find their way through the recession and have landed jobs/internships/placements.