Giving graduates the skills to lead.
Graduation is a time of celebration, recollection and reflection, where students look back on all that they have achieved as well as forwards as they look to reap the benefits of their hard work. As a new wave of students attend their ceremonies and establish themselves in the workplace, it’s a perfect time to reflect on the challenges ahead for our future leadership.
University should offer a potentially life-shaping experience; to educate and create aspiration amongst the next generation, where young people develop into functioning members of society who contribute to the job market. The fact that the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) 2016 report shows 71% of graduates entered professional employment within six months of graduation suggests there is some truth behind this statement, but it is a figure that only tells half a story.
A report released in 2011 by the CBI and NUS shows the graduate is often lacking in the core skills that ensures capability and effectiveness in the workplace, including team working, problem solving, positive attitude, self-management, business and customer awareness, application of numeracy and the application of IT.
It is understandable that in recent millennial research, employers believe graduates are joining the workplace with unrealistic expectations. With beliefs of rapid career progression, a more familial and supportive company, and management based less on performance and rigid objectives and more on coaching and mentoring (to name a few), graduates are being taken from their safe and familiar academic environment of 16 years or more – a place of individual performance and knowledge – to a workplace with a completely different outlook and set of rules.
At the Leadership Trust, we go beyond just assimilating academic knowledge by adapting an approach of learning by doing. For the past few years, we have been delivering leadership programmes to support universities such as Kent, Worcester and Middlesex, incorporating a selection of the core skills essential to graduate employability including team working, problem solving, positive attitude and self-management. By offering a contrast to their usual learning style and approach, we are able to create a powerful combination of university and workplace and build high performing teams that can place graduates at a competitive advantage and really focus on what the employers need.
So, in order to seek out tomorrow’s leadership, we must first seek out a change in the mindset of how universities focus on employability. Instead of the traditional educational system based upon just learning the information, they should be able to apply it to different contexts in a workplace setting, allowing graduates to be adaptable, creative and ready for work. It should be relatable to their degree, embedded into the student experience as a whole and not just regarded as a bolt-on.
In a challenging time where graduates are entering a workplace of complete upheaval and uncertainty, creating progressive and collaborative universities will be an educational process for all. However, what we can show for certain is that graduates need this guidance to find their place in an organisation and the skills to lead within. Together, we can develop adaptable, transferable talented graduates formed for leadership.
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