“Was my degree worth it?” say the graduate who finds himself doing a job that has no connection to the course he took.
“But of course,” replies the university. “You have acquired an education and a level of knowledge that is extremely desirable, not to mention making you highly employable.”
“That’s all well and good,” counters the graduate, “only I’ve spent the last two years serving coffee and cleaning tables in the local Starbucks. And I could have done that without the education, without the knowledge, and most definitely without the debt.”
The conversation might be imaginary, but the situation is very real. Over the past decade or so, increasing numbers of young people have gone to university, emerging with large debts, only to discover that are unable to find employment in a job connected with the knowledge and skills for which they trained. The flip side of this is that employers and employer groups have increasingly drawn attention to the fact that they are finding it hard to get people with the right skills they need to make their business successful.
Clearly there is a mismatch going on, where universities are not responding well to the needs of employers, with the consequence that thousands of people have been graduating from universities with skills, but not necessarily the ones that employers need, or ones that will give them the best chance of attaining good employment outcomes.
All universities have a vested interest in tackling this problem, in not just giving their students a good education, but also in ensuring that their graduates have good prospects as they make their way into the labour market. But how many universities have really managed to get to grips with this issue?
To state this more directly: do you know where your graduates are ending up, what they are doing and whether their jobs are connected with their degrees? Are you attempting to respond to this by better understanding what employers are looking for? How are you going about assessing the skills components of your courses to make your students more employable?
These three issues – understanding the destinations of your graduates; understanding and responding to the needs of employers; and understanding the skills components of graduate employment – are all crucial in providing solutions that find the sweet spot where education and employment interact.
In this short series, we’ll go through each of these issues to show how they can be tackled:
Step 1 – Will shows you how alumni insight can be used to help you understand what your students are doing in the workplace after graduating.
Step 2 – Will demonstrate how you can better understand and respond to employer demand, by comparing openings in the university region with supply of graduates in related courses.
Step 3 – Will show how the skills components of graduate occupations can be better understood, enabling you to respond by incorporating key skills into your courses.
Look out for Step 1 later in the week. In the meantime, if you would like to discuss how we can help your institution respond to the challenge of understanding and improving the career pathways of your students, contact us.