In recent years, the term 'student employability' has become very popular. It generally means an organisation undertaking various measures to strengthen the required competencies of a student while paying them. Hence, it covers the transitioning of students to employees.
While we continue to address the issues of unemployment and underemployment, there is also the issue of student employability to consider. The employability factor determines whether a vacant position is filled by another employee rather than a student or unemployed job seeker.
As a system, we have a responsibility towards improving employability. Whilst the benefits are spread far and wide, and enjoyed by employers, students, teachers, and the nation, there are also responsibilities to keep in mind.
The following suggestions are the clarion call to educators, companies, fellow HR professionals, and students to solve the problem of employability by bridging the gap between learning as students and earning as employees.
To Educators: How regularly are curricula revised?
By 2050, half of the present workforce will require reskilling, according to the World Economic Forum's Future of Work Report (2020). As the corporate world moves at a faster pace than academia, students are either equipped with outdated competencies or are under equipped with the necessary abilities. Hence, academia must adapt to the volatile market trends more quickly.
Therefore, firstly it is suggested that every programme should have a tech-related advanced course that teaches the use of technology in their respective field. HR students, for example, could take a course called HR Technology, which exposes them to real-world applications of HR software, while marketing students should learn Markstrats to improve the way businesses operate in the real market.
Secondly, can we have practitioners occasionally visit classrooms as guest lecturers during a semester?
Thirdly, as a means to improve country-wide academic research, can we make the publication of internship reports compulsory for all students as a requirement for graduation? It goes a long way if you want to build a fully developed graduate who is relevant in the workforce.
To Employers: Can we be more open to hiring interns and developing training and development plans for them?
Instead of treating interns like 'strangers doing a favour to the company,' employers should help the fresh graduates acquire relevant skills or undertake developmental tasks beyond routine work to improve their person-job fit. Companies should optimise the internship period by giving interns mentorship, coaching, or challenging tasks to jumpstart their career development.
To HR Professionals: Can recruitment criteria be fairer and more reasonable?
Careful job evaluation will show that some of the job descriptions developed for vacancies require specifications that of an overqualified person. For instance, once I saw a job advert that required 15 years of work experience for an Administrative Assistant position. We overemphasise the kind of people we need where about 5-8 years minimum work experience is enough to show the desired credibility to the company. We need to make up our minds to give young people a chance!
Top business executives interviewed in the UK, US and Ghana affirmed that their career growth started with the organisation that gave them the chance to grow as young people. Companies need to be more committed to human resource development than employing overqualified persons. Sometimes we forget that experience is not the absolute determinant of the best applicant. A person can have a 20-year work experience of doing a job most inefficiently and another can have 1-year experience of doing a job most efficiently.
To Students: Are you a good 'Self-manager'?
Newly emerging top skills according to the World Economic Forum's Future of Jobs Report 2020, include self-management such as active learning, resilience, stress tolerance, and flexibility. The concept of lifelong learning should be your watchword. You will be a student forever because even after graduation, you must continue learning. How much and how well you can learn throughout your life will determine your professional and even personal success.
According to the World Bank (2016), 2/3 of all jobs in developing countries are susceptible to automation. The future is about learning, relearning, and unlearning, so master the art of acquiring new knowledge and facing new challenges, and finding new opportunities for new experiences.
The world is renewing every day and we still don't fully know where technology will take this world. So, be brave now to learn how to be a great self-manager. Your self-management skills will take you to great heights.
There are three ways of simulation to improve student employability post Covid-19.
Bring the real world into the classroom
Rote learning is a thing of the past. Business simulation games are the future of education. Business simulations provide a safe environment for students to run their own businesses without any financial risks. This affords them invaluable insights and experiences in the real world of business, giving them a leg up on the employability ladder.
One of the key benefits of business simulations is the fact that they are designed with an employability focus. The right business simulator will help students develop practical knowledge to use outside of the classroom. This gives students genuine confidence in job interviews.
Provide relevant learning outcomes
Business simulations make room for more focused, work-related learning outcomes. Some of the relevant skills students will pick up include:
How to read and interpret market and financial reports
Working as a team to achieve common goals
Sales and marketing strategy
General understanding of finance
Cross-functional decision making
They enable experiential and reflective learning
Business simulation games allow students to take a step back and reflect as they learn, giving them the chance to improve and remedy mistakes. To learn by experiencing the consequences of their actions and trialing new strategies to determine better outcomes. Experiential learning improves work readiness and the rate of student employability. It is a teaching method that is both engaging and challenging, making for an exciting way for both students to learn and instructors to teach.
The final word to students
It is extremely crucial to understand that the global job market is becoming increasingly mobile and competitive, hence you need to stand out from the crowd. Employers expect graduates to have the knowledge and skills they have gained through their studies as well as the personal qualities that guide workplace performance.
Employability means having the skills and mindset to successfully gain, create and maintain work, making you able to perform effectively within a work environment. Having these skills helps you secure a job, manage your career, adapt to new work situations, and make a positive impact through your work.
If entering the job market is the stage you are at, then remember to be patient and don't neglect the importance of networking as a way of opening up job leads. Get involved in university life by joining clubs and societies, attend virtual career fairs, learn a second language, get a part-time job, gain work experience, and take on extra responsibilities by volunteering in some social work to benefit society. These are essentially the things that employers look out for to corroborate that you are a work-ready candidate with transferable skills.