higher education

Alison Watson, Programme Leader for BA (Hons) Business at Arden University shares her views on how the higher education sector is helping to prepare students to be work-ready

There is great pressure on both organisations and higher education institutions to develop skilled workers. As many sectors face a skills gap, employers are struggling to recruit the right talent, while traditional students graduate with big debts and limited work experience. It is necessary for this gap between employee shortages and lack of experience to be filled. Higher educational institutions see this issue and attempt to resolve this through their curriculum development and embedding soft skills into degree programmes. The following provides an overview of how universities are attempting to rectify this issue.

The higher education sector is becoming increasingly aware of the demand from employers for the development of required sector skills when designing undergraduate and postgraduate programmes.

Today, employers are not only looking for graduates to be equipped with the knowledge in their specialised fields but also to possess fundamental transferrable skills to enable them to operate effectively within an organisation, for example, communication, negotiation and time management skills.

In order for employees to function effectively, they need to be able to demonstrate they have these hidden skills and are able to put them into practice. More programmes are being designed with these skills in mind and are embedded through teaching and learning strategies. Caution must be drawn, however, to providing graduates with a balanced competence set. Focusing too much on these skills could lead to more practical ones being ignored.

A lot of universities are committed to providing society with work-ready individuals. A part of this process is to support, develop and prepare students for the working environment, for the benefit of employees and employers alike.

The main driver for students when enrolling in university courses is career enhancement and to get a good job. With this motivation in mind, universities provide students with numerous support mechanisms to help them prepare for life after study. Not only do they equip graduates with the skills necessary to function in their sector, but also coach and mentor students to support them in their job search with guidance on writing a CV, interview advice and time management tips.

Many universities provide students with access to alumni, whereby students can actively network with peers to gain contacts in the world of work. Careers advice services are also often at hand to provide guidance to students and work placement opportunities.

A number of universities have identified a priority to work with employers and professional, statutory and regulatory bodies to develop programmes suitable for students to complete, in order for them to support their career development.

Marketisation is forcing change within the academic environment. Today, there appears to be a decline in learning for its own sake and, as an alternative, higher educational institutions are opting to introduce more vocational courses focusing on teaching skills that can be transferred to the working environment. Presenting students with real-life problems will help them to develop the necessary experience.

Working with a range of stakeholders, including businesses, enables higher education institutions to identify the most sought-after skills. This collaborative approach supports the commitment to transform students into job-ready individuals who are able to quickly adjust to the business environment.

The increasing accessibility and development of higher apprenticeships are also contributing positively to this combined effort between stakeholders to develop students’ potential.

It is, therefore, essential for higher education institutions to continue to build relationships with a range of external stakeholders who can influence the development of their courses. Equipping graduates with the practical skills to be ready to enter into the work environment is essential for our economy and society.

Alison Watson is Programme Leader for BA Business at Arden University. She is an expert in marketing, human resource management, international business and student recruitment.


Alison Watson

Programme Leader for BA (Hons) Business

Arden University

Tel: +44 (0)20 300 56070





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