Prepare us for the workplace, say students

Posted on 16 May 2011 by The Manufacturer

A survey published by the CBI and the National Union of Students shows that both students and employers want to see a much greater focus on employability skills at universities.

The latest CBI / NUS survey asked 2,614 students a series of questions about how well their university courses had prepared them for the workplace.

While 79% of responses said they chose to go to university to improve their job prospects, 57% wanted their university to do more to help them understand employability skills, such as customer awareness, team working and self management, and 66% want more help in developing these skills.

Last week, the 2011 CBI / Educational Development International (EDI) Education & Skills Survey reported that 82% of employers considered employability skills as the most important factor when recruiting graduates.

Susan Anderson, CBI director for Education & Skills, said: “Employability skills are the most important attributes that businesses look for in new recruits, but graduates are currently falling short of employers’ expectations.”

While most companies in the survey have strong links with universities, the need to stand out in terms of employability is more evident than ever, according to the CBI.

“Now we’ve developed a guide with the NUS to show how these skills can be gained not just by coursework, but by a whole host of other methods, such as participating in societies, volunteering and doing work experience,” said Mr Anderson.

The guide is called ‘Working Towards your Future’, which provides students with an idea of what employers are looking for and how to improve their chances of winning a place on graduate schemes. The emphasis in the guide is predominately on exactly what employers are looking for, and the potential benefits that work experience, voluntary work, and charity work can bring.

Aaron Porter, NUS National President, said: “Access to higher education opens the doors to a world of possibility but it is incumbent on universities to do more to work with both students’ unions and employers to equip their students to face the challenges the future brings.
He added: “New graduates are expected to be increasingly adaptable in today’s labour market and this new guide will help students comprehend the array of ways in which they can develop their transferable skills and career prospects at university by combining academic performance with involvement with their students’ unions, clubs and societies, as well as by taking volunteering and employment opportunities.”
The CBI / EDI Education & Skills survey showed that 80% of companies have links with universities or plan to develop them, while 46% already provide work experience or operate an internship programme for students.

According to the CBI / NUS survey the majority of students have thought about the type of career they would like to pursue once they have finished their studies. 53% have thought about their future career, but have no definite plans, 39% say they have firm plans and 9% say they haven’t thought about future careers yet.

Manufacturers in the UK are increasingly under pressure to find skilled workers as others retire or the company in question expands. There has been a renewed focus on apprenticeships by the government in an effort to boost the numbers of skilled technicians and workers.

The ability to innovate is central to the UK’s continued ability to remain competitive on the global stage. This requires good links between the manufact