Future Graduate Skills: A Scoping Study – Executive Summary
Purpose of this scoping study
This scoping study aims to bring further understanding to the area of changing graduate requirements, graduate skills gaps, and sustainability skills. The results generated will be used by the research partners to make recommendations on actions for current students, employers, university and government. It will also inform the approach to training graduates at CAUK and the strategic approach taken by EAUC.
This scoping study was based on questionnaires and interviews with a range of key actors from different stakeholder groups: recent graduates, business leaders, and university leaders. This provided a wide scope of viewpoints, and the ability to compare ideas and insights into similar issues from different perspectives.
Recommendations by Audience
The recommendations from this study are organised by audience: Students, Businesses, Universities, and Government.
- Undertake extra-curricular activities during your time at university, and make a note of the projects this involves, the responsibilities you take on, and the skills you have learned, as this will be valuable when you come to apply for work.
- Be proactive in seeking out opportunities for real-world work experience alongside academic study
- All degree courses should involve at least 2 weeks (or 1 day per week for 1 semester) of work experience or a placement of some kind to enable students to develop real-world understanding of the professional or business workplace. This does not have to be in the sector related to their degree discipline, as the focus is on developing students’ experience of practical realities alongside academic theory.
- All courses must equip students with the cross-cutting skills necessary for addressing sustainability challenges, such as critical thinking, lateral thinking, and systems thinking. Interdisciplinary or cross-disciplinary learning and problem solving are valuable ways to get students out of their disciplinary silos and to start understanding the interconnectivity of systems.
- Universities as businesses have a responsibility to provide their staff (both office staff and teaching staff) with training on sustainability. This includes sustainability theory, practical applications of sustainability to different sectors, how it relates to their discipline, and how sustainability can be incorporated into their modules and teaching material
- Businesses should be more proactive in contacting universities to offer work placement opportunities, guest lectures, and information on what exactly they are looking for in the graduates that they hire.
- Businesses also have a responsibility to train their existing staff in the sustainability skills and knowledge that are becoming more important. For businesses to become sustainable, it is not enough to wait until current graduates with sustainability knowledge are in a position high enough to make significant change. Training on sustainability theory, and its application, should be made available for all staff. This will make the business more able to address the future challenges that emerge, both during and after the Covid-19 pandemic.
- In order to ensure that the changes recommended here are followed through, and to facilitate the process, the government must establish a body or commission that both enforces the necessary changes, and also facilitates and co-ordinates the process, through communication of best-practice approaches and provision of resources for universities. We support the call from Aldersgate Group for a National Skills Commission – it is crucial that this is a cross-cutting group, with representation from young people, education institutions, education sector bodies and organisations, business and Government.
- There is a significant opportunity and need for these findings to be considered at all stages of education – whilst this study has concentrated on university education and graduate skills, this issue is universal. The Teach the Future campaign calls for education at all levels to reflect the severity of the climate crisis; we support this and we would like to see sustainability in its broadest forms being incorporated into learning across subjects and disciplines. Skills for the future will be needed by all young people entering the workforce and changes to the National Curriculum to upskill students will be required. Ofsted and QAA must take a proactive role in fulfilling these requirements.