What makes a ‘good’ graduate?

Last week, I spoke at an event that seeks answers to the question of how to produce ‘better graduates’. Anyone reading this blog will know that I’m fairly bullish about our young people collectively – graduates included. So to say it right away – I don’t think our graduates have to become ‘better’. No – this is not the end of my post – let me clarify my stance a bit: If you’re to believe the NUS, then 80% of students these days are in higher education to improve their employment chances. I’ve never been sure if this should be higher education’s raison d’etre, but there we go – it is now. And if you believe pretty much every university’s marketing materials, then everyone’s doing a great job on that front. Employers are in on it as well – they’re all worried that they’re getting the right talent – out of an endless stream of candidates. So where’s the problem? I’ve taken part in at least four debates on this topic in the last year – and while there’s plenty of willingness to help, often there’s also a cluelessness about how to help. My take on it is that every one lacks one thing in this conundrum: employers lack trust in what young people have to offer – the public view of them is far too negative (thanks, Daily Mail, et. al.) – and employers are part of the public. This view is so embedded in the public consciousness that even amongst employers who are trying to do something about it (I don’t tire of pointing out the excellent work by the CIPD on dispelling negative myths about young people). Universities often lack a true commitment to their graduate’s employability – this is not their fault, they are just being incentivised by the wrong things: destinations and (even more ridiculously) salary data after six months makes them measure employment rather than employability (following my recent discussion on this, professionalism actually seems a much more useful term) – and fosters a short termism that changes our graduates … well … short. No wonder our graduates lack the final piece in the puzzle – confidence. And how are they supposed to feel confident – they know they are being regarded with mistrust, in their abilities, and their alleged Mickey Mouse degrees. What have I learnt from this? I don’t think we need better graduates – we need a better attitude towards them. They are the result of the education system we – the current deciders – have created – let’s not hold it against them. So what I’ve learnt recently (see what I did there?) is that we need to give them a break – what makes better graduates, is a change in the way we view them. Oh, and yeah, they need to learn languages – but that’s another post.

June 27th, 2013 by