EAUC launches Future Graduate Skills Study

15th October 2020

New EAUC and Change Agents UK Future Graduate Skills Study examined what ‘sustainability skills’ are, which of those are important for employability prospects, and how they could be best instilled in students and young people.
This piece of research is particularly relevant as it comes at a time when the recently launched Kickstart Training and Development Scheme can provide excellent opportunities to support the creation of meaningful work placements for young people - and help organisations to increase diversity and bring fresh ideas in these challenging times. On top of this, the current Government major expansion of post-18 education and training to level up and prepare workers for the post-Covid economy comes to confirm the need to help young people and adults gain the skills needed to work in sectors which will support UK’s economic recovery.

Key findings of the Future Graduate Skills Study include:
  • There should be greater communication and collaboration between universities, colleges and businesses, in terms of module design, teaching real-world problems, and organising work placements and internships.
  • While technical skills are important for certain specific roles, soft skills (such as communication, presentation, influencing behaviour change, analytical and critical thinking, and team working) are valuable in all areas of business, and should be taught in all courses.
  • The most effective way to impart new sustainability knowledge and skills would be to embed them within course curricula. This would allow students to understand how sustainability relates to their discipline rather than seeing it as a separate issue.
  • Both business leaders and graduates identified workplace skills as the main skills gap (e.g. negotiation, telephone skills, confidence working with superiors, and professionalism)
  • Business leaders consider volunteering, placements, and internships as valuable ways for students to improve and demonstrate their skillset, but graduates seemed less aware of the value of these extra-curricular activities for their future employment
Results indicated that there are varying levels of agreement across several issues, but there is a clear consensus on the need for active collaboration and co-operation between universities, colleges and businesses in developing training and/or course material relating to sustainability, employability and workplace readiness.

Iain Patton, CEO at EAUC said:

“The entire world has been hit hard by Covid-19 and we understand it is tempting to go back to ‘normality’ and govern this situation as we would have done previously. However, building back better and embedding sustainability skills across all disciplines is paramount in achieving this.

With this research revealing that most leaders in the education sector recognise that innovation, sustainability, and well-being are integral to a just economic recovery, it also outlined the unique opportunities to provide much needed resilience within their institutions. And while these actions are important, we believe there is still a consistent need to mandate the inclusion of sustainability in all Further and Higher Education courses, as well as within teacher training. We call on the Government to create a National Low Carbon Skills Strategy that embeds sustainability and net zero delivery across the whole education and service delivery system.”

Lexie Jones, CEO at Change Agents UK added:

“This research study highlights the urgent need for cross-sectoral collaboration on skills to evolve into active partnership where new solutions are jointly created. This should involve government, business and the education sector working together to build a framework for skills that will address the challenging targets for Net Zero and the delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Young people must be given a voice in this process; their perspective is important in understanding the skills gaps they currently experience and building a skills strategy for the future.

2020 has shown us that radical change achieved at pace can be possible when it is necessary. Young people who were already facing a precarious future have seen this further compromised by the COVID19 pandemic – we must act now to ensure they have the skills, knowledge and experience they will need to succeed as we enter this most challenging global period.”

The economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic have created further unknowns in terms of opportunities for young people, and the skills that will be needed in the job market going forward.
Developed with the scope to bring further clarity to the area of changing graduate requirements, graduate skills gaps and sustainability skills, The Future Graduate Skills Study outlined that we must now go beyond calls for more collaboration and instead recommend the urgent co-creation of a new skills framework between employers, educational institutions and young people.

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