Student employability and the development of core graduate attributes have emerged as some of the key concepts and ‘buzz words’ within higher education in the last few years. As more and more students enter the workforce with higher education qualifications and youth unemployment (15 – 24 year olds) on the rise, graduates are increasingly expected to complete their studies with more than ‘just a degree’ – having also undertaken a range of extra-curricular activities and developed transferable ‘soft skills’ – problem solving, communication and initiative, amongst others, to help them stand out from the crowd.
So what can we do, as Student Affairs professionals, to help students to develop these essential skills, or perhaps in some cases, learn the techniques for marketing the skills they have already developed through their experiences at University and beyond?
The first key role we need to play is providing, or at the very least, actively promoting, the opportunities within our departments, the wider university and our local (and global) communities. As Student Affairs professionals we’re frequently in a position where we become aware of many great volunteering, internship, learning, and networking opportunities that would provide great experiences to our student cohort. I’m fortunate that my own department facilitates a wide variety of these opportunities ourselves. But I also see a number of these opportunities land on my desk, into my inbox, or hear about them simply through word of mouth. All too often these get filed away or are lost amongst the paperwork. However, I passionately believe it’s our responsibility to pass the message on – through as many channels and networks as possible – to ensure that students know what’s available and have the chance to apply.
Secondly, we need to provide our students with opportunities to learn from own experiences in the workplace, regardless of their field of study or future career ambitions. Whilst it’s not possible to directly mentor every student, there are plenty of ways we can share what we, and those around us, have learned in our career paths. Some great examples include:
- sharing our own academic and career path,
- utilizing our networks and colleagues and inviting them to do the same,
- and facilitating opportunities for staff and student knowledge exchange.
This can be achieved through a variety of ways.
- Organized guest speaker opportunities
- One-to-one consultations
- Open houses
- Scenario-based activities
- Online blogs
Finally, we need to educate our students as to how to market their employability skills to prospective employers. All too often I review students’ resumes and am shocked to find that those that have travelled on study abroad/exchange, participated in community outreach work or undertaken leadership roles, HAVEN’T listed these details anywhere. When I ask the question, many simply state that they didn’t think employers would find such experiences relevant! Clearly, we need to highlight to our students that all of these undertakings have played a key role in their development, in many cases, directly enhancing those skills employers most seek – creativity, problem solving, initiative, communication – the list goes on. In particular, we need to help them to fine-tune their ‘elevator pitch’- articulating the experiences they have had, the skills required and the examples of where they put them into practice.
What other ways can help students to become employable, and emerge from their time with us, as well-rounded, global citizens?
> BONUS <
Podcast With Valerie Heruska on SA Professionals Role in Development Efforts