Suresh Gamlath: Ensuring high levels of graduate employability

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At the University of West London, 96 per cent of graduates are in employment within 6 months of graduation. The Dean of the Claude Littner Business School talks to us about how the University best readies its graduates for employment.

Employers rely on graduate talent to keep their businesses competitive and growing, so it is not surprising that they are in demand even in times of economic uncertainty – in fact, especially in such times – as talented people can help find creative and innovative solutions to business challenges. In order to serve the expectations of employers and to achieve high levels of graduate employability, universities should consider employers’ needs, be student-centric and driven by their needs and aspirations and not confined by discipline or subject.

Having been an employer myself, I know how important recruiting the right people is for an organisation’s competitive strength. Getting the recruitment and selection process right is vital. Technical skills and up-to-date knowledge on the core subject fields are key for graduates. But critically, there are additional important attributes such as being a team player, leadership, creativity, critical thinking, ethical social awareness and independent problem solving which all boost employability.

At the University of West London, 96 percent of our graduates are in employment within six months of graduation.* In order to deliver high graduate employability year on year like this, all of our courses are developed with the needs of the job market in mind which we believe gives graduates an ‘edge’.
So, specifically, how does The Claude Littner Business School (CLBS) help students to become employable graduates?

Good course design is essential and using a repertoire of assessment approaches and techniques to achieve meaningful learning outcomes that reflect the reality of what employers need from graduates. Students will benefit from excellent industry links which is experienced through masterclasses, expert talks, site visits, and work placements.

With the aid of online technology, students can now interact with real world scenarios. For example, at CLBS we focus on developing an advanced understanding of the complexity of real world problems by using technological simulations which replicate ‘live’ scenarios and with which students can interact in the risk-free setting of the classroom. This helps them acquire professional attitudes and perspectives.
Tutors often witness a transformation when their students are exposed to these learning environments.

We have also introduced ‘student-led’ consultancy, where small business owners, who may not be able to afford expensive consultancy services, come to us for help on specific projects – such as marketing a new product. In some cases our students’ coursework assignment is based on a real-world consultancy project like this. Combining theory and practice in this way leads to strong outcomes and builds knowledge, confidence and a range of skills in the student.

Meanwhile, entrepreneurial thinking is no longer confined to those willing to take risks on new ventures which may or may not one day earn them a fortune; increasingly employers are showing a preference for graduates who are entrepreneurial as it adds value to an organisation. In order to foster this entrepreneurship, CLBS founded the annual Brentford Dragons competition, supported by the local Chamber of Commerce, which challenges students to think entrepreneurially in an engaging ‘Dragon’s Den’ format.

Becoming highly employable means that a student’s preparation for their first job interview begins on the day they start a course. This means helping students to plan ahead and encouraging them to be proactive and develop a professional mindset. Work placements and internships are a very effective way of creating future graduates with the right skills and attitude for meeting the expectations of employers and is something we put a lot of emphasis on at CLBS.

Additionally, many of our students take on part-time jobs while they study, and we have rationalised the class timetable to facilitate this. This is because part-time work can help students develop a degree of maturity quickly which benefits them in many ways.
Many students underestimate the importance and power of networking and what their profile on social media says about them to prospective employers. We have designed assessments that train and educate students to develop their networking skills and we recently hosted a talk by the networking website Linkedin for students about using the platform effectively.

So, creating highly employable graduates means being aware of what employers need and creating an environment and culture that is conducive to delivering to these expectations. This will involve investing in innovative teaching, learning and assessment methods, encouraging proactive engagement with the world of work and effectively linking students to businesses so that they experience a smooth path from the world of education to the world of work.

*According to Employment Performance Statistics published by HESA July 2016.

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About Suresh Gamlath

Suresh Gamlath is the Dean of The Claude Littner Business School at the University of West London.

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