In the last issue of Absolute Business, Amanda Menahem, HR Director of Hastings Direct, wrote of the issues employing graduates straight from university, many of whom lack the life skills to progress quickly. Chris Baker, Director, Economic and Social Engagement responds with the university view.
Interview by Ian Trevett
Do universities prepare students for business? Universities are large complex organisations, which cater for a very different range of industries and professions and there are many factors to consider.
Firstly, one of the main training functions of a university is to train professionals in medicine, nursing and
education. Large proportions of our graduates and post-graduates will go directly into those professions or law, and the teaching is prescribed by the professional bodies.
Secondly, we attract students from across the world and they don’t necessarily want to focus on working
or living locally. So we need to cater for their needs as well.
A third factor is there is a common misconception that every graduate behaves and acts in the same way.
It’s very much about how individuals with a common training background react to the work place. We provide
an education into which we put as many experiences as we can of the external world – through placements,
volunteering, practical challenges – and we involve businesses and the community. But it is down to their
motivation and aspirations.
However, every university has a commitment to improving the employment prospects of its graduates. We help students find internships that are designed for graduates to get work experience as a way of giving them a better chance of landing a job. We also promote a range of employment services that operate a bit like a job centre for graduates. That gives them specialist help with CV preparation, interview experience, practical courses – skills employers are looking for. It’s a very mature service and it’s available to all graduates from any university and that is important.
Do you believe there is a skills shortage in certain key sectors such as engineering? Many engineers we train will end up working in financial institutions. They are sought after as they are numerate and the city is attractive place to work and probably better paying than engineering. We don’t determine where the students go, they determine where they go. If this university trains 200 engineers, it doesn’t mean 200 of them will end up being practising engineers. So sometimes when employers say that there is a shortage, the shortage is because graduates have chosen to go elsewhere.