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Employers want it all

by Fiona Christie on December 17, 2010

At a recent Council for Industry and Higher Education (CIHE) conference, a major theme emerged; employers are moving away from the language of skills to the language of “expertise” which represents a blend of skills, attributes, qualities, knowledge, and experience.

Something to bear in mind if you are job-hunting…pretty daunting really but a reality we have to face.

Two recent CIHE reports provide evidence of the development of employer attitudes.

The Fuse: Igniting High Growth for Creative, Digital and Information

Talent Fishing: What businesses want from Postgraduates

David Doherty the CEO of CIHE talked about the “mash-up graduate”, the graduate who “knows how to learn” and the “T-shaped graduate” who is one that can demonstrate and develop a depth as well as a breadth of expertise. This is the ideal candidate!

When I hear what employers want from graduates I have mixed feelings. One part of me thinks, “fair enough”; but another part of me thinks that employers do need a reality check and their expectations are too high. Ultimately employers do need to take responsibility for developing talent and maybe it will only be after a few years of work that any employer can realistically expect to have a member of staff that actually looks like the required “mash-up graduate” and the “T-shaped graduate”.

James Kewin from CFE (authors of the recent Generation Crunch: the demand for recent graduates from SMEs’) did an insightful presentation which analysed the graduate pipeline of talent and the blockages within it.  He unpicked some of the misconceptions around this but also went on to discuss how the increase in tuition fees may affect the graduate job market. The reality of greater debt post-University will certainly affect graduate behaviour post-University and could contribute to focussing graduates’ minds in terms of applying for jobs, which could benefit graduate employers.

In my view, responsible employers will be working more closely with Universities to help develop their students rather than wait passively hoping to get the finished product in a perfect graduate.

I do worry about how changes in tuition fee arrangements will affect certain sectors of employment; for example those that require individuals to do postgraduate study, e.g., law, teaching, academia among many others. Other sectors also expect candidates to do a lot of unpaid work, e.g., charities and the media. How realistic will this be?

Uncertain times ahead…

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