According to a 2013 survey, less than half of all graduates currently feel that university has prepared them for the world of work. With an employability crisis already hitting hard, and the cost of higher education growing year on year, now is the time to ask: whose responsibility is the training and employment of our young talent?
2011 saw the removal of the duty of schools to provide careers education, sending the message that it was not up to our education system to provide guidance when it comes to our students’ careers. And, in some ways, perhaps this is fair. After all, academic study should stand alone as a worthy pursuit, and as a system that engenders passion and talent for a variety of subjects, regardless of whether that passion translates to a career. Though surely it is best for all concerned if we do try and link our passions with prospective career? But we’ll come to that.
With high competition for graduate roles, employers can – for better or worse – afford to be choosy about who they hire. Emerging from education with a handful of excellent exam results is, for many companies, no longer enough to warrant an interview, let alone a job. According to a recent report, a third of graduate jobs are filled by those who have worked for the company previously, and more and more students are choosing to research their career options in their first or second year of university, rather than leaving it until their final year, or graduation.
So what does this tell us? It means that students have never been more aware that education is no longer enough. That there is a clear gap between ‘education’ and ‘work’ and that the first does not necessarily lead directly to the other. It also tells us that the jump from education to the working world can seem like an extremely lonely one, with the responsibility square on the shoulders on the individual graduate to ensure they match the ever-expanding criteria of the companies they wish to work for.
And the problem is, many of the skills these companies so desperately require in their team are lacking in our graduates. By 2015, we may be facing 900,000 unfilled tech jobs in Europe, simply because only a very small percentage of our students acquire the relevant skills to take them on.
Now, the solution is certainly not to force coding and web development on everyone who reaches Higher Education, but it’s a clear indication that, currently, there is a real problem of communication between our educators and our employers. Surely, if there were clearer lines of understanding between our education system and the jobs market that awaits after it, we could present our students and graduates with something else besides an unknown void. We could present them with real pathways, with emerging markets, with what skills can take you where in any industry and how to turn what you love into what you do. Because the point is that we shouldn’t draw a line between education and employment – that we shouldn’t see the end of our university as the end of our learning, just like we shouldn’t see the beginning of employment as the beginnings of drudgery and boredom. It’s all connected, it’s all important, and the passion you feel for one should feed into the other.
We need our government, our systems of education and companies big and small to contribute to the training, development and building of our talented youth. Because education doesn’t and shouldn’t exist in isolated, set apart from what comes after it. If we begin to connect the skills we learn at school, at university, in training schemes, in online courses, with industries, employers and opportunities that that will push those skills further, we will start to see the next generation shine.
Did university prepare you for the world of work? Comment below or tweet us @NCUBtweets.