Many universities have launched employability initiatives that focus on preparing students. Courses, and careers, hinge on the results. However, research indicates that employers also need preparing. This article presents five ways you can work directly with gradate employers to increase the number of students successfully entering work after graduation.
1. Engage directly with major graduate employers in your area and nationally
Most universities already do this through their Careers service, hiring fairs and so on. But programme leaders can bring emlpoyers closer to students—and this is especially important for those who run highly specialized courses or, conversely, those running large programmes with many competitors.
2. Talk to employers about what they really want from universities—and what graduates can only get from them
For years, we have heard moans from employers about “unprepared” graduates. The reality in many sectors is that despite saying they want graduates with generic problem-solving and communication skills, many companies long ago wound up their internal training divisions, believing that universities can deliver specialised training at no cost to them. Unless it’s through a bespoke course, we can’t. Frank discussion with employers should include talking sensibly about what we can do, and what they need to do.
3. Stay current via site visits
If you haven't worked in industry for years (or perhaps never have due to the nature of your academic subject), arrange some exposure. Ask two or three major employers if you can spend a few days or even a couple of weeks on-site, talking to employees and managers alike about graduates in the workplace. What part of their own degrees are they still relying on? What wasn’t fit for purpose? What do they see as emerging trends that they would like new hires to be ready for? What is the workplace and the work really like?
4. Encourage employers to look “outside the box”
For all their annoying buzzwords (see above) about valuing creativity, employers can be hard to shift beyond the same assumptions that have guided hiring decisions for decades. They still often think fresh graduates are more “in touch” than mature professionals who have just retrained, for example. Or worse yet, they favour men over women and public-school grads over the masses, or see potential hires who are Black, disabled, or non-British as “faces that don’t fit.” Major employers may have Diversity departments that are trying to buck the trend, and direct links here can give students a hand up.
5. Have a look at employers’ recruiting practices, and suggest research-based ways they can improve
Some modern developments in HR, from psychometric testing to online-only applications, cost a great deal and deliver little. In fact, these practices may actually be preventing employers from finding the right applicant for the post. Show them the research, and encourage them to explore personnel with a personal touch rather than automation. Many aren’t even aware of the way these systems are being “gamed” by tech-savvy applicants, via a plethora of Web sites providing them with stale “right” answers for graduate-jobs applications and interview questions.