3 ways to make graduates more prepared for work


Employers report that many graduates are leaving education unprepared for the world of work. Why is that, and what steps can we take to help? Three experts give their answers.

 

Steve Shepherd, CEO, TwoPointZero

Society has placed a huge emphasis on obtaining a university degree, and it’s widely believed that not having one is a disadvantage. But even Vicki Thomson, CEO of the G8 Group of Australia’s leading universities, has argued university isn’t for everyone and is against the concept of degrees for all. So what’s the main reason that message isn’t getting through?

Although well-intentioned, parental advice is often tainted by their experiences, biases and opinions – and usually over 30 years old and no longer relevant. Parents do not have a comprehensive knowledge of the careers market and don’t account for the significant changes to the skills needed to be successful in business. This is a problem because 75 per cent of students say the biggest influence on career planning decisions is their parents.

But it’s not just parents. The media and educators often don’t grasp the new expectations of today’s jobseekers, and that not all careers need a degree. Some large corporations are adapting their requirements to this reality in an effort to make sure they’re attracting the most motivated and aspiring talent. PwC, for instance, has developed alternative pathways to careers for young people that don’t require a degree.

Students typically choose a career path because they enjoyed a subject at school or got great grades that made possible degrees like law, or they were told they would be good at something without really knowing if they would like it; or they signed up for the best course they could attain with their grades.

Instead of pushing our future workers into tertiary education, we should redirect our good intentions towards helping them find their passion and realise their “career personality”. This will help them identify careers that match their motivators and drivers, and help them develop career pathways to achieve their goals.

Jan Owen, CEO, Foundation for Young Australians

The world is facing the biggest disruption to the world of work since the industrial revolution. These changes mean 60 per cent of Australian students (and 71 per cent of those in vocational education and training) are currently studying or training for occupations that will be radically altered by automation.

The Foundation for Young Australians’ latest report, the New Work Mindset, has analysed 2.7 million job advertisements to reveal job clusters that are closely related to skills that are more portable than previously thought. When a young person trains or works on one job, they acquire skills and capabilities that will potentially help them get 13 other types of job.

Some will require additional formal or on-the-job training. However, job clusters provide the opportunity to identify skill gaps and find ways to fill them.

Instead of focusing on a ‘dream job’, young people should consider the ‘dream cluster’ based on their skills and interests, and where they are likely to have the most longevity. Developing a portfolio of applicable skills and capabilities based on the requirements of the cluster will help ensure they are able to easily move between roles.

For employers, this could mean shifting recruiting practices to hiring based on cluster skillsets rather than experience within a specific industry or role. This would widen the pool of candidates and may help to both reduce vacancies and drive better labour-market matching.

Our national vision must be one in which every young person is equipped for a lifetime of learning, diverse ways of working, and with the hearts and minds to help build the future.

Justin Prince CPHR, group HR manager, Ertech Holdings

Having spoken to many students across WA’s major universities, as well as interviewing over 100 for graduate placements, I can say that many present as poorly prepared to enter the HR profession. Most still ask questions like, “What kind of work can I expect to do on graduation?” And more worryingly, “What is HR?” And when quizzed as to the operational mechanisms of HR, graduates often demonstrate only a cursory understanding. Few draw a link between operational functions and the ongoing commercial viability of the organisation.

This means they are woefully unprepared to withstand the storm of continuous change, morally ambiguous decision-making and bottom-line pressure they will be faced with as practitioners.

I believe this happens because traditional methods of education teach students how HR does things, rather than why. The former will change, but it is less likely the latter will. It’s crucial we teach students to critically analyse and understand business by adapting the core unit set within undergraduate degrees to include business, finance, marketing and employment law. Group assessments should be designed to teach students to work in a self-regulated team, where members are held accountable so they learn how to manage change and how to make the best decision possible at the time – even if they risk having to undo their work later. Finally, we need HR practitioners to mentor undergraduate students and help them connect academic learning to real-world principles.

We need to strike a balance between having graduates operationally ready to join the ranks, while at the same time preparing them to be flexible and outcome driven – and above all, to think critically.

Want to be a part of the solution? AHRI’s Work Experience Placement Program connects organisations with promising HR talent. Applications for organisation members open on 1 September.

This article originally appeared in the September print edition of HRM.

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Tracey
Tracey
6 years ago

Having completed a Masters of HRM last year I feel I can answer this question with a fair degree experience. The majority of my studies involved me submitting assignments that went against the theoretical teachings of a particular subject. Lecturers and subject leaders with relevant current experience appreciated and acknowledged my practical application of what was being taught, whilst others (full time academics), refused to accept anything other than what was written in the textbooks. Luckily for me I had extensive work experience and had returned to study later, but for those coming straight from an undergrad degree (or those… Read more »

Nick
Nick
6 years ago

As someone who completed a undergrad in HR last year and has spent the year since working in the field, I can undoubtedly say I feel uni was the biggest con. I finished with decent marks though toward the end of the degree was literally going through the motions to get the marks and no longer working. When I began my job it became apparent I really didn’t know anything beyond theory. Ironically my boss never studied the field though she has taught me more than any academic has. Perhaps it’s not university itself but the amount of time you… Read more »

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3 ways to make graduates more prepared for work


Employers report that many graduates are leaving education unprepared for the world of work. Why is that, and what steps can we take to help? Three experts give their answers.

 

Steve Shepherd, CEO, TwoPointZero

Society has placed a huge emphasis on obtaining a university degree, and it’s widely believed that not having one is a disadvantage. But even Vicki Thomson, CEO of the G8 Group of Australia’s leading universities, has argued university isn’t for everyone and is against the concept of degrees for all. So what’s the main reason that message isn’t getting through?

Although well-intentioned, parental advice is often tainted by their experiences, biases and opinions – and usually over 30 years old and no longer relevant. Parents do not have a comprehensive knowledge of the careers market and don’t account for the significant changes to the skills needed to be successful in business. This is a problem because 75 per cent of students say the biggest influence on career planning decisions is their parents.

But it’s not just parents. The media and educators often don’t grasp the new expectations of today’s jobseekers, and that not all careers need a degree. Some large corporations are adapting their requirements to this reality in an effort to make sure they’re attracting the most motivated and aspiring talent. PwC, for instance, has developed alternative pathways to careers for young people that don’t require a degree.

Students typically choose a career path because they enjoyed a subject at school or got great grades that made possible degrees like law, or they were told they would be good at something without really knowing if they would like it; or they signed up for the best course they could attain with their grades.

Instead of pushing our future workers into tertiary education, we should redirect our good intentions towards helping them find their passion and realise their “career personality”. This will help them identify careers that match their motivators and drivers, and help them develop career pathways to achieve their goals.

Jan Owen, CEO, Foundation for Young Australians

The world is facing the biggest disruption to the world of work since the industrial revolution. These changes mean 60 per cent of Australian students (and 71 per cent of those in vocational education and training) are currently studying or training for occupations that will be radically altered by automation.

The Foundation for Young Australians’ latest report, the New Work Mindset, has analysed 2.7 million job advertisements to reveal job clusters that are closely related to skills that are more portable than previously thought. When a young person trains or works on one job, they acquire skills and capabilities that will potentially help them get 13 other types of job.

Some will require additional formal or on-the-job training. However, job clusters provide the opportunity to identify skill gaps and find ways to fill them.

Instead of focusing on a ‘dream job’, young people should consider the ‘dream cluster’ based on their skills and interests, and where they are likely to have the most longevity. Developing a portfolio of applicable skills and capabilities based on the requirements of the cluster will help ensure they are able to easily move between roles.

For employers, this could mean shifting recruiting practices to hiring based on cluster skillsets rather than experience within a specific industry or role. This would widen the pool of candidates and may help to both reduce vacancies and drive better labour-market matching.

Our national vision must be one in which every young person is equipped for a lifetime of learning, diverse ways of working, and with the hearts and minds to help build the future.

Justin Prince CPHR, group HR manager, Ertech Holdings

Having spoken to many students across WA’s major universities, as well as interviewing over 100 for graduate placements, I can say that many present as poorly prepared to enter the HR profession. Most still ask questions like, “What kind of work can I expect to do on graduation?” And more worryingly, “What is HR?” And when quizzed as to the operational mechanisms of HR, graduates often demonstrate only a cursory understanding. Few draw a link between operational functions and the ongoing commercial viability of the organisation.

This means they are woefully unprepared to withstand the storm of continuous change, morally ambiguous decision-making and bottom-line pressure they will be faced with as practitioners.

I believe this happens because traditional methods of education teach students how HR does things, rather than why. The former will change, but it is less likely the latter will. It’s crucial we teach students to critically analyse and understand business by adapting the core unit set within undergraduate degrees to include business, finance, marketing and employment law. Group assessments should be designed to teach students to work in a self-regulated team, where members are held accountable so they learn how to manage change and how to make the best decision possible at the time – even if they risk having to undo their work later. Finally, we need HR practitioners to mentor undergraduate students and help them connect academic learning to real-world principles.

We need to strike a balance between having graduates operationally ready to join the ranks, while at the same time preparing them to be flexible and outcome driven – and above all, to think critically.

Want to be a part of the solution? AHRI’s Work Experience Placement Program connects organisations with promising HR talent. Applications for organisation members open on 1 September.

This article originally appeared in the September print edition of HRM.

Subscribe to receive comments
Notify me of
guest

2 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Tracey
Tracey
6 years ago

Having completed a Masters of HRM last year I feel I can answer this question with a fair degree experience. The majority of my studies involved me submitting assignments that went against the theoretical teachings of a particular subject. Lecturers and subject leaders with relevant current experience appreciated and acknowledged my practical application of what was being taught, whilst others (full time academics), refused to accept anything other than what was written in the textbooks. Luckily for me I had extensive work experience and had returned to study later, but for those coming straight from an undergrad degree (or those… Read more »

Nick
Nick
6 years ago

As someone who completed a undergrad in HR last year and has spent the year since working in the field, I can undoubtedly say I feel uni was the biggest con. I finished with decent marks though toward the end of the degree was literally going through the motions to get the marks and no longer working. When I began my job it became apparent I really didn’t know anything beyond theory. Ironically my boss never studied the field though she has taught me more than any academic has. Perhaps it’s not university itself but the amount of time you… Read more »

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