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Students have called for their universities to do better at equipping them for work

David Woods , 16 May 2011

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Students want universities to better explain employability skills and to provide more support to help them develop these competencies.

According to a CBI / National Union of Students (NUS) survey published today, which polled 2,614 students, over half (57%) want universities to do more to help them understand employability skills, such as customer awareness, team working and self management.

Two thirds (66%) would like more support in developing these skills. This comes as the majority of students (79%) say that they decided to go to university to improve their job opportunities. These findings follow last week's publication of the 2011 CBI / EDI Education & Skills Survey which shows that employability skills are the single most important consideration for 82% of businesses when recruiting graduates.

But 70% of employers said university students need to do more to prepare themselves to be effective in the workplace.

Susan Anderson, CBI director for education and skills, said: "Employability skills are the most important attributes that businesses look for in new recruits, but graduates are currently falling short of employers' expectations.

"Competition for jobs is intense and graduate unemployment remains high, so students need to proactively develop relevant employability skills. But at the same time all universities need to explain these skills better and make sure they embed them in teaching.

"The majority of companies have strong links with universities, provide work placements, collaborate with universities on research and give careers advice.

"Now we've developed a guide with the NUS to show how these skills can be gained not just by coursework, but by a whole host of other methods, such as participating in societies, volunteering and doing work experience."

Aaron Porter, NUS national president, added: "Access to higher education opens the doors to a world of possibility but it is incumbent on universities to do more to work with both students' unions and employers to equip their students to face the challenges the future brings. Students are increasingly demanding of their institutions and quite rightly expect more in the way of information, support and resources to prepare them for life after university.

"New graduates are expected to be increasingly adaptable in today's labour market and this new guide will help students comprehend the array of ways in which they can develop their transferable skills and career prospects at university by combining academic performance with involvement with their students' unions, clubs and societies, as well as by taking volunteering and employment opportunities.

"It is crucial that universities and employers work with students to provide proper signposting to ensure they are in a position to make informed decisions and to develop and realise their goals. A greater understanding of employability will enable today's students to develop themselves, make a contribution and fulfil their potential tomorrow."

The CBI and the NUS have worked together to produce the guide called Working towards your future, which explains what employers are looking for in new recruits and provides practical tips to help students meet these requirements. The guide explains how employability skills can be developed through university courses, but also by other methods including participation in clubs and societies, volunteering in the community and by gaining work experience.

Businesses recognise that they have an important role in helping students develop the skills needed for their future careers, providing work experience and careers advice and collaborating on research and development.

According to the Education & Skills survey 80% of companies have links with universities or plan to build them in the future, with 46% providing work experience to students.

The latest research finds over half (53%) of students have thought about their future career to some extent, but have no definite plans, 39% say they have firm plans and 9% have not thought about future careers yet. Just under half (45%) of students are fairly confident about the chances of getting the type of work that they want, while only 7% are not confident or think there is little likelihood of securing the career that they want.

 

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Free-riders

Sauncho Smilax 16 May 2011

Notwithstanding the split infinitive in the lead paragraph ("to better explain"), there is a bit of a 'cake and eat it' mentality among the majority of employers who don't offer work experience to graduates - 'employability' skills are surely gained by doing work experience - if there is an under-supply of this - then employers are partly to blame. Organisations should not expect to free-ride off the generosity and investment of other organisations.

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