Future Fit – The Competitive Edge

Graduates need to be equipped with the right skills to succeed in the workplace and with today’s tight labour market, students are realizing the need to take personal responsibility for developing the skills and attributes that will help make them employable and their employers competitive.

We are not living in easy economic times. The class of 2012/13 onwards in the UK will be leaving university and entering the labour market at the worst of times with unemployment at around 8.4%, well above the 40-year average of 7.2%. The employment rate for recent graduates have fallen significantly from 90.6% in 2001 to its current 10-year low of 85.5%.

The recession – and the resulting competition for jobs, throws into sharper focus how crucial it is for graduates to have the right attributes to succeed in the workplace.

Employers are no longer looking at strong academic performance but place equal emphasis on positive attitude in every new recruit. Although on the job training may be provided, employers expect graduates to have a broad range of abilities to make the smooth transition from university to the workplace. That is because coming into the work environment can be a complete shock for many students, because they have had limited exposure to such things as teamwork in real life situations.

Competition is also intensifying. Graduates today are not just competing with their counterparts from universities in the next city, but those from other countries and continents. The investment is worthwhile, because we know that graduates at their best, with the right mix of skills, can have a transformative effect on the places where they work.

While the onus lies with the student to research these issues as part of their responsibility, Universities could do more to empower students in building key competencies and core professional skills by providing dedicated resources including Personal Development Plans (PDP’s) to provide a framework for self analysis and the acquisition of skills where gaps are identified.

This is where I see a growth area in employability skills, gap skills and competency compliance. By providing a ‘Future Fit’ programme that focuses on what employers really want would be an investment for both Universities and business. Employability skills are a top priority for both sectors and so universities need to rethink their employability strategy for their students while graduates need to invest in their future.

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