Supporting graduates' futures through today's higher education
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Why are so many university graduates unemployed? The research reported in this paper addresses this question from the employer’s point of view and then articulates recommendations to universities regarding how to improve graduate employability. Research was conducted with 73 employers from multiple disciplines, 53 of whom were surveyed and the other 20 interviewed. There were three main findings. First, communication, motivation/initiative and leadership were the most desirable attributes and characteristics of university graduates from the perspective of employers. Second, while employers expected that university graduates had developed solid discipline-based knowledge and respectable grades, they said that they do not recruit only those who were at the top of the class. Notably, a number of the participating employers believe that many students who achieve the highest grades do so at the expense of extra-curricular activities that would help them to become well-rounded and thereby employable. Third, the top strategies and approaches employers believe that universities should be using and/or supporting to enhance the employability of graduates are work experience and internships, extra-curricular activities and volunteering. The three respective recommendations to universities for future-proofing their graduates and therefore higher education are as follows. First, embed employability throughout the everyday curriculum so that each and every educator takes responsibility for assuring discipline-based and transferable capabilities in graduates. Second, avoid making university curriculum and assessment so demanding that students do not have time or energy for pursuits beyond the classroom, and integrate their beyond-classroom pursuits with pedagogical activities to develop co-curriculum. Third, align and partner with industry, increasing opportunities for all students to participate in work experiences and/or internships. In summary, future universities are those that actively assure their graduates’ futures through designing, developing and sustaining a quality student experience that prepares graduates for fulfilling careers.
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