Yesterday our esteemed CEO Tina McKenzie joined a panel on BBC Radio Ulster's Sunday Sequence on our education curriculum and whether it is fit for purpose nowadays. A fantastic discussion on the state of our education system in Northern Ireland, the pressure we put on our pupils from such a young age to succeed and whether schools equip their pupils with the right skill set to succeed was had. We would thoroughly recommend listening to the broadcast as it is incredibly informative and interesting. You can listen right here or via the BBC Sounds app.
One point that stood out to us from Tina was her view on whether or not children are being given the right skills and support to succeed.
"As a large employer in Northern Ireland and as someone who works with thousands of employers, what our employers tell me is that the children don't know about the jobs that are out there. So if you are teaching children [about] careers, have you ever had a job outside of education? Do you know what it is to work in these types of companies? Do you know what is going on in the digital age? Do you know the requirements? In most cases, we are being told that these children are not ready for these jobs because they are not being informed properly about them."
This is an incredibly timely point as the years go by and the age-old question remains "How do I land the job of my dreams?"
In the not too distant past gaining a degree in your relevant field was the sure-fire way to land yourself that coveted role that you'd dreamed of since childhood.
In certain specialised professions such as medicine or teaching, a degree and years of study are still very much necessary but an article published last week on The Global Recruiter states that "University Degrees Are No Longer The Silver Bullet To Landing The Best Entry-Level Jobs."
The article largely focused on a study from StandOutCV where one thousand recent graduates were surveyed to find out how effective their time at university was in helping them gain employment.
There are some interesting statistics to be gained from the article "Whilst many of us believe that a degree will guarantee you a job from the moment you leave university, the results of the survey would suggest otherwise. Whilst 15 percent of participants secured employment within 3 months of graduating; 55 percent took between 3 months to a year to land a job, and 21 percent took over a year to secure a full time employed position. Only 9 percent managed to secure a job before graduating – this was mainly due to being offered a position, following good performances in work placements."
What then is the key to landing yourself a job straight out of university if it isn't the degree you've been working so hard to attain?
Surely if so many people are being left out in the cold when it comes to their chosen careers, then fewer people will be signing up to go to university?
Not according to UCAS who states, in an article published last year "In England, a record 27.9 percent of the 18-year-old population have been accepted through UCAS. In Wales, 26.3 percent of young people will be starting an undergraduate course, also a record. In Northern Ireland, the entry rate is 28.1 percent. Scottish students received their exam results last week, and 25.9 percent of all 18-year-olds have now been accepted."
With university numbers up and expected to keep rising with demand increasing to 300,000 by 2030, according to the BBC in 2018, but with post-graduate job prospects so low, what is the answer? What's the solution to getting yourself into employment in a clearly oversaturated market?
Skills and experience. Things that should be taught hand in hand with a degree to prepare graduates for the world of work but what sadly seems to be lacking in the modern workforce and post-graduate employment seekers. Does the responsibility lie with the student or the university to close this particular skills gap? In England, Scotland and Wales, students pay £9,000 a year on tuition fees alone for university, surely that means they should graduate with every skill needed to succeed straight into the workplace?
A 2018 report published by QS and (ISE Institute of Student Employers) would argue that this isn't the case and "that prospective students do not fully understand how employers value skills. Students tend to over-value the importance of creativity and leadership skills and under-value the importance of flexibility/adaptability and teamwork, which employers regard with high importance. It is clear that such discrepancies call for raising awareness so that students are informed about which skills organizations prioritize before they graduate. It may also indicate that universities are failing to adequately train students in areas that are essential for successful employment."
As Northern Ireland's leading recruitment agency, we here at Grafton Recruitment firmly believe that knowledge coupled with a strong skill set is the best entryway into the workplace, regardless if you are a graduate or not, with our Director of People & Culture Keith Smith stating that "experience is only gained in the workplace and the sooner we get students into work, the more productive they become and the skills shortage can be addressed."
In a world that is constantly changing the goal posts on what is needed to put your foot on the first step of the career ladder, our recruiters are expertly trained to seek out specific skillsets and match people to their perfect job role within a vast range of industry sectors. There isn't an immediate answer to what exactly is key to landing your dream career but rest assured we will do our very best to help you along the way.