Employability, and how to prepare students for the world of work, was discussed at the latest Pearson HE Co-Lab Network event.
What do employers want from graduates?
The first speaker of the day was Peter Matthews - A senior Partner and former Global Head of People at EY.
His role included recruitment, training, exiting of talent and their alumni network , so, he was well placed to give his insights into the types of skills, attributes and qualities a global company looks for in their graduates and as employees continue to develop through their careers.
The talk was packed with useful tips and advice which provoked a lively discussion in the question and answer session. P
articipants asked for advice with engaging their students, creating the right culture in the classroom that will give graduates the right characteristics to succeed in a company like EY and how to increase “buy in” for employability skills.
Putting employability at the centre
The next speaker, Jo Ives, shared her experience with creating work-ready students at Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU).
Jo, who is the Deputy Director of Careers, has rolled out a highly successful employability program at LJMU and all undergraduate degrees offered at the institution have employability elements built in.
Likening it to a stick of rock, displaying ‘Employability’ all the way through wherever you cut it, she explained that a well-rounded graduate program should have the same employability focus right the way through the course – no matter which module or class you look at.
Sharing a snapshot of her working day, Jo said everyone’s outcome should be the same – employable graduates.
“Careers advice and guidance used to sit right on the edge of an institution but now it is not, it is a core component and we are measured quite heavily – as we should be.”
"My world is changing, and we are changing and adapting all the time.
"We’ve got to keep ahead of everything."
- Jo Ives, LJMU
“My world is changing, and we are changing and adapting all the time. We’ve got to keep ahead of everything.”
Explaining that everyone within an institution is accountable and responsible for employability, Jo shared some of the things LJMU has put in place to create students that are ready to start their careers.
She added: “We have to pay it forward. This is what we do every day, we take our collective knowledge and experience and we pay it forward.”
Jo gave some invaluable insight while answering questions from the floor on everything from outlining LJMU’s top three KPIs, details of a bespoke careers website the institution has created for students as well as her work overseas helping develop employability in institutions in other countries.
How to future proof your career
The final speaker for this Co-Lab event was Meji Abidoye who studied at the University of Buckingham and now works for Google. While at the University of Buckingham, he co-wrote a book with Sir Anthony Seldon called “The Fourth Education Revolution” which delves into the impact AI could have on the next generation of workers.
For this session, participants were invited to log onto an app on their phone or laptop to ask questions which appeared on the screen at the front in real time.
Meji shared some tips with the educators present including the idea of creating mouldable students who he called “workplace putty”. By creating graduates that are prepared to continue learning throughout their careers, universities will help graduates “future proof” their careers.
Using the example of coding language Python, Meji said that if a person was to focus too closely on that one skill then they could find themselves unemployable if that particular language becomes defunct. Rather than listing skills in relation to software, graduates should aim to become more rounded and adept at “rapid retooling” to adapt to the ever-changing workplace.
He explained: “If you create a graduate you would not be comfortable hiring within the university then that is how you see whether or not you’ve been successful.” Essentially, asking attendees ‘would you buy your own product?’
Oliver Latham, host of the HE Co-lab network and UK HE Sales Director, said of the event: “We are building a community which focuses on teaching and learning challenges faced across higher education. We seek to bring a range of people together; including academics and professional service representatives to discuss and debate topics.
“Most importantly, we want attendees to go away with a clear action for their university. Something they can do the next week. If the events do not help prompt action and change, they do not meet their objective.”
What is the HE Co-lab Network?
The network brings together those working in teaching and learning through a dedicated LinkedIn group and at a series of live events throughout the year.
It aims to inspire new ideas and gives leaders the chance to collaborate on issues facing their institutions and hear examples and best practices from universities around the country.
The event, held at Wallacespace in Covent Garden this month, gave members a chance to meet up, listen to talks from employers and thought leaders as well as the opportunity to discuss issues facing their institutions.
You can read more about the Co-Lab here.
How to join the Co-Lab Network
Membership of the Co-Lab Network is open to staff working for a UK Higher Education institution with a cross-institutional remit to drive excellence in teaching and learning.
To find out more about the network and the dates and topics for the next event, email firstname.lastname@example.org.