EMPLOYABILITY is top of the agenda for universities and businesses. More sandwich courses with one-year industry placements and 12-week summer internships for students are two of the recommendations of a Government-backed report released last week.
The Review of Business-University Collaboration by Sir Tim Wilson focuses on links between higher education and employers. It calls for funding incentives to increase the number of courses in which students spend a year in industry.
I’m delighted such links are being encouraged and employability of students is recognised as a national priority. It echoes my faculty’s own commitment.
The Wilson Report states the “evidence that a placement year improves employability opportunities is strong,” and “lack of work experience appears as a key barrier to young people, including graduates, in securing employment”.
What it does not say is that those students who take part in placements are more likely to graduate with a higher class degree than those who don’t, but that’s certainly been the case in my faculty.
Learning for a purpose is paramount at university. Placements are an important feature of many of our degrees – undergraduate and postgraduate. Securing involvement and commitment from business and industry to expand placement opportunities is pivotal for students and in turn for employers and the future economic confidence of the UK.
We have introduced employability modules in each year of our business and management degrees to help create graduates who can be most effective in a job. Sunderland is the only UK university to my knowledge which tackles employability through face-to-face and group discussions at each level of a business degree.
It’s too late to start thinking “what next?” at graduation. By the time our students graduate, we expect them to have a clear idea of their strengths and career direction.
No one should be trapped in a job they hate for many years. Year-long work placements, summer internships and career-related initiatives, including employability modules, all help to give students the information, understanding and approach their chosen employers will appreciate.
Close links between business and universities stoke innovation, create important research partnerships and nurture excellent future employees. They have never been more important.
:: Professor Bernie Callaghan is dean of the faculty of business and law, University of Sunderland