Employability must be a core focus for all higher education. With 8% of employers not able to fill posts due to a lack of applicants with the right skills and 13% of employers having similar issues with a lack of skills in current employees, workplaces need more skilled individuals. The sizeable gaps in the job market represent lost productivity for those companies, lost taxes that could help the poorest in society, and a large number of individuals that could have more profitable and rewarding jobs if they only had the right skills.
These skills gaps come alongside record levels of HE participation, with more than 50% of the population gaining a degree by 30. The Government has labelled this problem the skills mismatch, and it is getting larger. Universities are responsible for addressing the mismatch by ensuring that graduates leave their courses with skills that can get them jobs.
One step towards reducing the skills mismatch involves employers in the design and delivery of university courses. Initiating and developing these relationships can be time intimidating and consuming for academics that have not developed skills in this kind of relationship building. Here I have suggested five steps to building solid collaboration with employers in a gradual phased approach. Any such effort aims to reach step five, at which multiple employers help to design a course to fill their skills needs and are happy to add their brand to marketing materials and employ graduates that the courses produce.
Five steps of employer involvement:
- Guest lectures
- Student site visits
- Employer developed assessments
- Student Placements
- Co-designed courses