Graduate employability: less finger pointing, more preparation

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We’re sleepwalking into a crisis. There is much talk of the ‘lost generation’ of frustrated, angry, debt-ridden 20-somethings with diminishing career prospects. Yet employers continue to wring their hands as they pore over inadequate job applications or realise they’ve hired graduates with little grasp of what the world of work actually requires of them.

So can you bottle employability? And whose job is it to teach it? Universities are being urged to play a more pivotal role as nurturers of self-aware 'can-doers', not just of learned scholars. After all, employability stats are fast becoming a decision-making factor for many parents and prospective students. Perhaps the buck actually stops with employers who have a responsibility to offer more and better internships, apprenticeships and other forms of work experience and to nurture those students and graduates in a way which prepares them better for any type of work.

The long-term problem is the increasing under-employment of talented, capable young adults who are treading water in very limited roles. Graduates are typically heading for a working life of 10,000 days; who'd want to spend them in the wrong job, wondering what the right job would even be?

'Career' employers say that they want to recruit candidates who are more self-aware, who understand exactly what they have to offer their chosen industry and how to offer it. But you can't deliver this material effectively online or out of books.

So where do you start? We can't ignore the importance of translating education into meaningful skills and capabilities for the workplace and thousands of graduates need more practical ways to help themselves become the model employee. They need access to from some form of employability guidance, but there's not a great deal on offer.

The gulf between education and business is becoming too wide. Pockets of excellent advice and guidance are offered by some Universities, but most often we hear stories of careers services that aren't connecting with the majority of students. Whilst online learning is affordable and scalable, is it genuinely effective?

Back to those 10,000 days. Who's going to help young people make more informed decisions? There is clearly room for more bespoke guidance and I hope that business, the Arts, Government and the education and voluntary sectors can collaborate more closely in order to provide it. For many, it's a leap into the unknown and we need to re-think seriously and quickly how we will guide the next generation of contributors at this crossroads.

Alastair Creamer (pictured) and Paul Preston are co-founders of Eyes Wide Opened

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