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How higher education institutions prepare students for careers?

To prepare students like you for today's labour market, higher education institutions should focus on making that you can find employment opportunities after you graduate. Employability means having the right skills, knowledge and professional attributes to get employment and succeed.

If academic institutions neglect their focus on holistic development, students will be insufficiently prepared for the fast-changing job market. This could make it harder for them to compete for jobs with individuals from all over the world.

Finding a job can be intimidating, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the economy. Students may get confused about what employers seek or how institutions will help them meet those expectations.

Because of all this uncertainty and the constantly changing employment market, higher education institutions must prepare students before they complete their studies.

Employability: Essential for closing the skill gap

In order to succeed in today’s ever-changing labour market, you must develop a well-rounded and transferable skill set, including:

  • Soft skills: Having good people skills, like being able to work well with others and handle stress.
  • Digital skills: Knowing how to utilise technology, such as artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing, machine learning and big data.
  • Technical skills: Knowing role-related competencies, like how to use certain machines or software.
  • Meta skills: Being able to think creatively and solve problems in today’s fast-paced and complex work environments.

However, many individuals struggle to gain all these skills. The job market is changing fast and many people don't have the skills they require for the job roles available. The World Economic Forum estimates that by 2025, about half of all workers will need to learn new skills. If we can close this skills gap, it could add $11.5 trillion to global GDP by 2028 to the world's economy.

Because of this gap, many individuals find it difficult to meet the job requirements as they don't have adequate skills.

Prepare for today’s workforce

10 ways higher education institutions can prepare students for successful careers

Higher education institutions can act as a bridge for students, helping them transition smoothly from education to the workforce by providing them with the skills employers seek. Listed below are some ways institutions can incorporate skills and competencies into the learning experiences they deliver.  

1. Provide vocational courses

  • Vocational courses offer a practical approach to gaining skills and qualifications, boosting employability.
  • There's been a huge expansion in vocational options recently, ranging from basic levels to advanced degrees.
  • You can find courses in almost any field, from business to social care, engineering and software development.
  • These courses benefit students who have a specific career path in mind and those who prefer hands-on learning over traditional classroom settings.

2. Partnerships with employers

  • Education institutions with industry partnerships offer opportunities for collaboration between employers and students.
  • These partnerships can involve workshops, digital courses, placements and course materials created by institution faculty and industry professionals.
  • They help students learn about the current demands of the workplace.
  • Sometimes, courses don't adapt fast enough to meet employer needs. Internships may be lacking. Industry partnerships offer students academic instruction and real-world insights.

3. Offer practical learning opportunities

  • Hands-on opportunities, such as lab experiments, work placements and research projects, help students learn by doing.
  • These activities offer valuable information and experience for students to reflect on.
  • Hands-on activities can be included in almost every course, both on and off campus.
  • Excursions to local businesses, temporary placements and volunteer opportunities enhance the hands-on experience for students.
  • Participating in these opportunities adds value to a student's resume and can help them answer competency-based interview questions effectively.

4. Educate on data literacy and skills

  • Workplaces now rely heavily on digital tools like SaaS programmes, automated systems and conferencing tools.
  • Many of these tools are new to students but essential for the future.
  • Digital literacy should be part of every curriculum, regardless of whether the course is technical.
  • Data literacy skills should be taught in an engaging way, using real-world examples and figures provided by industry partners and avoiding overly technical lectures.

5. Provide internships and apprenticeships

  • Work placements, internships and apprenticeships help students gain valuable skills in a real-world setting.
  • Students also get a taste of the workplace environment and corporate structure while earning money or contributing to their degree.
  • Higher education institutions with active internship and apprenticeship programmes are more attractive to students, with 66% wanting more real-world experience.
  • These opportunities provide a great way for students to explore different sectors and roles, build professional networks and gain confidence before leaving higher education.

6. Include skills training in courses

  • Employers state that students often lack the skills needed for work, but educational institutions can help by teaching these skills in the curriculum.
  • Brainstorming sessions and group work teach teamwork and analytical skills.
  • Role-playing assignments and work placements help to build interpersonal and communication skills.
  • Teaching these soft skills makes a degree more valuable, as students improve their employability and digital literacy while earning a qualification.

7. Offer resources and workshops

  • Students should easily access career information through desktop computers and mobile devices.
  • A careers hub should be regularly updated with local job openings, volunteer opportunities, on-campus projects and extracurricular activities.
  • Booking a session with a career advisor should be simple.
  • Workshops are valuable and can cover topics like CV writing, interviewing and job hunting in detail.
  • Workshops also offer a space for students to ask questions and receive personalised advice and feedback.

8. Develop employability skills

  • Education institutions should provide a range of upskilling programmes to cater to diverse learning speeds and career aspirations.
  • Employability skills can be taught through class activities like breakout sessions and group work.
  • Extracurricular clubs can help students develop leadership and problem-solving skills through on-campus projects.
  • Working with local businesses offers valuable experience for students.
  • Education institutions should establish methods to assess employability skill development, such as digital quizzes, role-play scenarios, or client-facing positions.

9. Create career paths

  • A good career development plan helps students explore job opportunities and supports them throughout their academic and professional journey.
  • These plans should be personalised for each student and include opportunities to speak with a career advisor for feedback.
  • Some institutions involve local businesses in developing career pathways.

10. Establish a global engagement strategy

  • Dr Vicky Lewis, a consultancy advisor, discovered in her 2020 research project that some higher education institutions still rely on global league table rankings for performance assessment. However, this approach is inadequate as educational institutions adapt to life after lockdown.
  • Education institution strategies have changed, with a greater emphasis on international collaboration and values-based approaches.
  • These aspects are seen as more insightful measures of success, helping students succeed in today's fast-changing workplaces.
  • Higher education institutions should prioritise internationalisation, digital accessibility and transnational education in their engagement strategies.

Prepare students for employment with GBS Dubai

GBS Dubai is one of the well-known higher education institutions known for its industry-specific courses in fields such as accounting, healthcare, education and more. GBS has partnerships with top higher education providers and is dedicated to its mission of “changing lives through education”.

Students who enrol in courses at GBS Dubai gain qualifications that hold international recognition. In the UAE, GBS Dubai is approved by the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), ensuring that all academic qualifications are certified by KHDA and acknowledged by both public and private institutions in Dubai.

Want to know more? Contact the student support team.

Frequently asked questions about preparing students for today’s workforce

Many jobs nowadays involve digital aspects, so higher education institutions should help students improve their digital literacy. Soft skills are also essential. Employers seek graduates who are adaptable to new technologies and possess a variety of soft skills, such as critical thinking and communication, which are valuable for addressing workplace issues.

With the increase in remote and hybrid learning and work environments, digital literacy has become increasingly crucial. Higher education institutions can assist students in navigating this dynamic digital landscape by offering various digital services, such as a digital careers hub. This hub serves as a valuable resource for students, even after graduation, allowing them to continuously develop skills and adjust to changes in the workplace throughout their careers.

Higher education institutions should facilitate students in exploring their career options and planning their initial steps into the workforce through active reflection. This process involves identifying strengths, experiences and desired skills. Offering internships, access to industry contacts, career advisors and employability workshops enables students to make informed career decisions.

Behavioural skills are essential to every higher education curriculum. Dissertations encourage deep problem-solving through research and reflection. Group work promotes collaborative skill development and timely goal achievement. Off-campus activities and trips provide engaging opportunities to enhance behavioural skills, especially when students are involved in planning and setting learning objectives.

Higher education institutions can prepare students for today’s workforce by:

  • Providing vocational courses
  • Forming partnerships with employers
  • Offering practical learning opportunities
  • Educating on data literacy and skills
  • Providing internships and apprenticeships
  • Including skills training in courses
  • Offering resources and workshops
  • Developing employability skills
  • Creating career paths
  • Establishing a global engagement strategy

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