Having addressed the question of the employment that your students end up in after graduating in Step 1, we can then begin to think in terms of setting out career pathways while they are studying. In particular, we can consider how insight can be used to ensure that the course areas and skills you are teaching are giving your students the best opportunity to attain to good employment outcomes. We’ll address the skills element of this in Step 3, but in this section we’ll concentrate on looking at how course areas map to employer demand.
In order to do this, we need to conduct a “Gap Analysis”. This is basically a comparison of employer demand in the university’s region (or it can be done for a broader area) with the number of completions in associated course areas. What this does is to highlight areas where there is oversupply or undersupply of graduates into the labour market, as well as areas where provision is reasonably well aligned.
For instance, the following table shows a sample of nine subject areas using anonymised data from a Gap Analysis we have conducted:
There are a number of things to note about this table:
1. The top three occupations are areas where the university already offers courses, but the data indicates that there may well be significant room to grow these to meet demand.
2. The middle three occupations are related to courses that the university does not currently offer, indicating that there appears to be enough demand in the regional economy for the university to explore the potential for creating new courses to meet these skills needs.
3. With the bottom three occupations, these are areas where the data suggests that the university is currently oversupplying the labour market to a significant level.
Of course, the identification of gaps in the first six subject areas comes with the caveat that we are only looking at the university’s supply, and the figures do not take into account the supply from other providers, or other sources of labour such as industry-trained pipelines and job changers from other occupational categories. Nevertheless, the figures are significant enough to indicate that there may well be room for the institution to grow the top three courses, to consider offering the middle three, and to look at whether current provision in the bottom three should perhaps be reduced.
Giving portfolio planners more focus
The purpose of the Gap Analysis is not for a university to start questioning its entire portfolio; rather, it is to give planners more of a sense of direction and focus as to which course areas are broadly aligned with employer demand, and which are significantly misaligned with related employment demand.
For instance, the chart below shows the gaps between annual openings and course completions in 14 subject areas at a particular university. As you can see, there are some course areas that currently have a large oversupply or undersupply, which we have marked as those with a difference between completions and annual openings in excess of 200 and -200. There are also others which, though not perfectly aligned, are nonetheless reasonably close. This insight therefore gives university planners a good sense of which course areas might need to be reviewed, rather than trying to review or realign all 14 subject areas.
What does this have to do with Career Pathways?
Such insight is no doubt interesting, but it can become a bit of an academic exercise if the study sits on a shelf, gathering dust. But if the insight is used effectively, with steps taken to better align course areas to employer demand for graduate positions, then your university will surely end up with a portfolio that is more to the benefit of both employers and students alike.
Ultimately, this is therefore all about making better connections between the education you offer, and good employment outcomes, so that your students are given a better chance of ending up in employment that is in the subject area in which they studied. On the flip side, employers start getting a better talent pool of people with the right skills.
In addition, as well as leading to a more aligned course portfolio, the insight can also be used by the university to articulate to both students and prospective students how the skills they learn in the course they are doing or thinking of doing can set them on a career pathway with genuinely good employment prospects awaiting them after they graduate.
However, it is not just course areas that we need to look at in connection with employer demand. The changing nature of the employment sphere means that increasingly universities are going to have to look more carefully at the skills dimension. We’ll turn to this in Step 3.
If you would like to discuss how the kind of insight shown above can be used by your institution to improve the career pathways of your students, contact us now.