developing MBA students graduation

UK business schools and businesses should work together on developing MBA students and their careers as future leaders writes AMBA chief Andrew Main Wilson

As the global labour market becomes increasingly heated and economies remain an uncertainty, employers need a new breed of leader to launch and execute future-proof strategies. Businesses and business schools have to work together to rise to the challenge of finding – and developing – the global leaders of tomorrow. At the Association of MBAs (AMBA) we passionately believe that MBA graduates represent some of the brightest and best postgraduate future leaders.

In March last year, I had the opportunity to interview Paul Polman, CEO of one of the world’s largest employers, Unilever, and he told me: “The moment you become a good leader is when you realise it’s not about yourself – investing in others, society, and what I call the common good, is when you make an investment in yourself to prosper.

“The basic skills MBAs need are integrity and hard work – but our volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world needs different leaders with a high level of awareness, engagement, humanity and humility.”

This is something I feel very strongly about and an area in which our network of 244 world-leading business schools are trailblazing.

The role of business schools in developing MBA students and their careers

In 2016, AMBA surveyed more than 2,000 of its members in a bid to define and address these skill gaps. Respondents came from 104 countries: 51% live and work in Western Europe; 54% had completed their MBA and the remainder are still studying.

Among graduates, 82% are employed, 17% are not employed, but looking for work and 2% are retired. The largest majority of respondents (18%) work for organisations with very high turnovers (more than £5 billion), and 14% work for organisations with small turnovers (less than £1 million).

The study revealed that 88% rated their MBA as ‘excellent’ or ‘good’. But it showed scope to include more contemporary business topics such as big data, sustainability and digital marketing in MBA curricula – topics that MBA students and graduates believe will be in high demand from employers. Almost three quarters (73%) said ‘greater networking opportunities with employers’ and 54% said ‘more contemporary business topics and ‘more real-life company based projects’, might have enhanced graduates’ career options.

Why collaboration between business and business schools is key to further help develop leaders

Business schools, businesses and the AMBA have a lot of work to do together. Schools have great curricula but start-ups are struggling, so we need to work together to create value for graduate entrepreneurs. Strong links need to be developed between business schools and venture capitalists to prepare students for dealing with start-ups. It’s not just about students having an entrepreneurial mindset, but also understanding how to create a win/win situation in which investors can help start-ups survive and grow.

Some Fortune 100 companies are involved in government- level input into strategy and curriculum design. Some IT companies are working with governments in the developed world to facilitate the better provision of data scientists, for example. But generally, I think corporates could be used even more by business schools when exploring populist trends which can be used to inform curricula; there is more work to do to make courses more flexible and agile to reflect an incredibly fast-moving business environment.

For employers, the priority is to get the best MBA candidates. The relationship with schools completely depends on the extent to which the schools are responding to their needs directly.

The good news is that research conducted by AMBA’s strategic partner GMAC, surveyed 748 employers and found that 84% planned to recruit MBAs in 2015, compared to 74% in 2014. The same report found that the MBA was the most sought after post-graduate qualification in the opinion of the employers surveyed.

How AMBA works with business schools

As part of AMBA’s employers’ strategy, we work closely with MBA recruiters, MBA students and graduates, as well as the careers and alumni teams of AMBA-accredited schools, in developing strong links. These could be developed in the form of collaboration and idea-sharing through recruitment thought leadership articles, physical conferences on trends in MBA recruitment, or in practical ways, such as recruitment promotions, physical and online careers fairs and an innovative Career Development Centre – for our community, complete with careers advice and employer database, job ads and much more.

The onus, however, is on employers and business schools to join forces and build recruitment strategies together, to find areas of collaboration, ensure their network of talent is future proof, and the content and design of MBA programmes across the world are relevant, forward-thinking and thought-leading.


Andrew Main Wilson

Chief Executive

Association of MBAs (AMBA)



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