Are we doing all we can to ensure the future is all that is hoped for?

Over the last year I have been focused on building a graduate recruitment and university relations program from scratch. A daunting task and considering that I didn’t have the luxury (yes that is what it was in the early ‘80s, a luxury) of being able to go to university I had no real understanding of the territory, the communities and the language used. Got there in the end though, well the first part and scheduled a number of events and recruitment fairs, all attended over the last couple of months that put me and my colleagues into direct contact with faculty and students bodies at various universities around the country. Whilst the schedule has been tiring the experience has been an education and very rewarding for me.

I have been impressed by the enthusiasm and commitment that so many have shown. The willingness to make the best for themselves and the eagerness with which they will take on advice and guidance has been a surprise and a credit. This however is tempered with a sense that so many of the students are at university just marking time until they have fulfilled the required academic expectations of their peers or their parents. Many of the students I met knew what they were about, had confidence, direction and could articulate why they chose their subject and maybe how they could apply the skills they learned in the real world. Too many however were the complete opposite and seemed to be drifting, happy be doing what they do for now.

Regardless of levels of enthusiasm I still feel there is a disconnect between their expectations and the reality of commercial life. There seems to be clear and distinct lack of real and worthwhile careers advice given to students at 6th form prior to choosing a college or a degree and then again once they start on their degree courses.
Talking to a number of faculty members in recent weeks I have been told that many of them have been in academia all of their professional lives and therefore don’t have the experiences in the corporate commercial world to offer guidance and direction. Furthermore there seemed to be a level of frustration from those that I spoke to that businesses didn’t get involved enough to help.

A unique approach is being encouraged by e-Skills. e-Skills created, with the full backing of specific companies, and now manage a degree course called Information Technology Management for Business (ITMB) at 12 universities across the UK. At a recent event with 260 ITMB students who came together from all over the country from as far away as Exeter and UWE, (Bristol) to Northumberland, UCL and Greenwich to meet for the day at the University of Manchester, I was inspired by the knowledge and enthusiasm of 1st, 2nd and 3rd year students; their confidence to ask questions and challange the employers and be heard. I am pleased to say they will have an advantage because of the investment in time they and their departments make in getting them to meet with their future potential employers on a regular basis.

It is a message for all of us surely. Don’t we have a responsibility to motivate, advise and guide all parties. Won’t we all benefit from this? So many degree courses provide opportunities for students to acquire skills that are definitely transferable to functions and disciplines in the commercial world; however it would appear that they lack the input from the commercial world, us, to understand how those skills can be applied.

  1. I can provide a good example to this. The care home industry complains that they are seen as second class career to the NHS and that newly qualified nurses don’t choose a career with them. Yet, to my certain knowledge, none of te big players in this Market have made any attempt to speak tintype audience, to engage with student nurses, to maybe even alter their working practices to offer the things that the new nurse want out of a career. So what do te care homes expect??

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