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Joe Gazdula. Closing the Loop; Employer perceptions of graduates employability skills gained from real world projects. Session Outline. This session looks at the effect of real world enterprise projects on graduate employer perceptions

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joe gazdula

Joe Gazdula

Closing the Loop; Employer perceptions of graduates employability skills gained from real world projects

session outline
Session Outline
  • This session looks at the effect of real world enterprise projects on graduate employer perceptions
  • It considers a cross section of the real world projects run with education students at Hope University
  • Looks at general employer perceptions of graduates employability skills
  • Advises of findings from a survey of 6 employers of undergraduates done in 2010

“...having a set of skills, knowledge understanding and personal attributes that make a person more likely to choose and secure occupations in which they can be satisfied and successful” (Dacre et al, 2007, p. 280)

enterprise skills
Enterprise Skills

‘the skills, knowledge and attributes needed to apply creative ideas and innovations to practical solutions,’

‘initiative, independence, creativity,

problem solving, identifying and working on opportunities,’ leadership, acting

resourcefully and responding to challenges’

(Rea 2007 p.611)

employability higher ambitions dbis 2009
Employability? Higher Ambitions(DBIS, 2009)
  • Not all graduates need employability skills – some already have them
  • Flexible routes into HE desirable
  • part-time study and including work-based learning
  • 205,195 part time first degree undergraduates in 2005 (HESA 2010)
  • Philosophical arguments (Oakeshott 1972)
current perceptions gallup 2010
Current Perceptions - Gallup 2010
  • Pan European study showed 89% of employers thought graduates had the skills to work in their company.
  • However many employed ‘traditional’ graduates e.g. Solicitors and doctors
  • No measurement of the level graduates were employed at
current perceptions rae 2007
Current Perceptions - Rae (2007)

Surveys suggest that employers value skills of leadership and team working, communication and presentation skills, and business awareness, for example, but that they experience difficulties in recruiting graduates with these skills (CIPD, 2006; AGR, 2003).

reluctance to skill up
Reluctance to ‘skill up’
  • distortions caused by the Research Assessment Exercise which meant that academic staff have a greater incentive to publish in academic journals than to undertake joint research with business

Rae (2007)

  • The prevailing culture of academic organisations is often to focus inwards, on the organisation of academic structures and on the subject discipline of research and course curricula.
  • outdated and cumbersome university management practices that tended to be slow and risk averse (Hogarth 2007)
some approaches to employability
Some Approaches to Employability
  • Graduate Apprenticeship Scheme
  • Sandwich courses
  • WBL
  • PBL
  • Case Studies
  • Placements

But still the skills gap persists for employers

our approach
Our approach
  • Real world graduate enterprise placements
  • Difficult tasks
  • Combined enterprise type skills with problem based learning
  • Often with added difficulties
  • But well monitored
  • Self funding or income generating
real world problems education studies
Real World Problems – Education Studies
  • Study Support Developments (Everton FC 2007)
  • Young Entrepreneurs Dragons Den (see ESCalate 2008)
  • Culture Clubs
  • MacAttack (St Helens Library 2010)
  • Children’s University (2011 unlikely to proceed due to redundancy situation)
our study
Our study

We asked 6 major regional graduate education employers about the type of skills they would pick up on the projects we have called ‘Real World Problem Solving’

outlines of projects given to companies
Outlines of projects given to companies
  • 1 month before survey
  • Runthrough
  • Skills identified
  • Learning identified
  • Questions
we asked
We Asked;
  • If the projects would enhance the ability of education graduates to get a job

If the graduates would benefit from having better employability skills through doing the real world problem solving projects we had described

If their recent graduates would benefit from improved skills in the following areas when they graduated and to make a comment
  • leadership
  • team working,
  • communication
  • presentation skills,
  • business awareness

This is what they said


Presentation skills (These finding need to be tempered as some employers representatives took the meaning to be personal presentation only and others actual presentations)

  • Some graduates need simple skills like how to get up in the morning!
  • They don’t have to take any responsibility for their actions in university, these type of programmes will help them realise how important it is to get things right.
  • Your programmes will help them plan projects and be ready to take responsibility early
  • They’re very good but sometimes need a bit of help to get started
  • Why don’t all universities do this sort of thing?
  • There is a clear difference between the ones who have work experience – even if it’s in a shop- and the ones who don’t
  • We don’t fast track graduates above other employees, they have to perform
  • ‘.....despite extensive development, and evidence of innovative practices to foster employability within universities, employability remains a complex and problematic area without clear or obvious solutions. Increasingly, enterprising students and graduates are regarded as more employable, and there appear to be advantages in integrating career and enterprise development themes within the curriculum.’ Rea (2007)
  • Dacre Pool, L. and Sewell, P. (2007), “The key to employability: developing a practical model of graduate employability”, EducationþTraining, Vol. 49 No. 4, p. 277-89.
  • Gallup November (2010) Employers’ perception of graduate employability: Analytical reportFlash EB No 304 European Commission
  • Rea, D (2007) Connecting enterprise and graduate employability; Challenges to the higher education culture and curriculum? Education and Training, Vol. 49 No. 8/9, 2007 p. 605-619 Emerald
  • UK Universities (2010) Higher Education Facts and Figures ( - accessed 7/4/11)
  • Oakeshott, M. (1972) ‘Education: the Engagement and its Frustration’, in Fuller T. (ed.) Yale University Press.
  • Hogarth, T. Winterbotham, M. Hasluck, C. (2007) Employer and University Engagement the Use and Development of Graduate Level Skills -Main Report, Institute for Employment Research University of Warwick IFF Research Ltd