Universities must work more closely with employers if today’s school leavers are going to flourish

Roxanne Stockwell
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Degrees need to satisfy more than just the pursuit of intellectual curiosity (Source: Getty)
As another generation of young people receive their A level results, record numbers are expected to head to university next month.
This is undoubtedly good news as it’s estimated that people with degrees earn around £200,000 more over their lifetime than those who did not attend university. However, it’s important that people embarking upon their courses next month receive the skills they need to meet their ambitions; for most people the main purpose of working towards a university degree is to get a job after graduation.
Yet it is clear that many universities are not equipping their graduates with the soft skills needed to succeed.
Our annual CBI/Pearson Education and Skills Survey has found that almost half of employers are unsatisfied with their graduates’ commercial awareness, self-management and resilience. It is worrying that so many firms are finding that their new hires aren’t properly prepared for the world of work and the reason for this lies with the disconnect between employers and universities.
The pursuit of intellectual curiosity is of course an important part of a university education but fee rises have transformed today’s school leavers into critical consumers of higher education and they are rightly now expecting more for their money. If young people begin to feel that the traditional academic offer fails to prepare them for the world of work by lacking opportunities to acquire skills and practical work experience, they risk forgoing higher education altogether.
Universities need to respond to these shifts and embrace a new, more innovative approach to higher education. Forming partnerships with businesses and major industry figures will help ensure that degrees are designed, developed and delivered in partnership with the job market in mind. At Pearson College we ask great companies like L'Oreal, Lloyds and Unilever to come in and give our business students real hands-on experience for precisely that reason.
Making sure today's degrees relate more closely to the future of the world of work would ensure that today’s graduates are prepared to meet the needs of employers and that the higher education sector as a whole is prepared to meet the needs of the 21st century.

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