A lot has been said about university graduates – Most employers or business owners are not too happy with the quality of graduates that are churned out of our tertiary institutions each year. We know how frustrating it can get when a university graduate for example is unable to communicate effectively or perform a simple task. The emails are not written well, the PowerPoint presentations are not done well – we are aware of that!
It is easy to complain and blame the tertiary institutions for not doing their best in preparing the students for the work.
However, I believe organizations can play an active role in equipping students with the necessary skills to be work ready upon graduating from the university.
“These students are your future human capital, hence the need to support them very early.”
If employers are only looking to hire from a select few tertiary institutions who have structured programs and platforms to adequately equip their students for the job market, then we are not helping other students who may not have access to these support services like a well-managed Career Centre in their schools.
It is great to hire or work with someone who already has the basics skills to add value to your business but going the extra mile to support more students especially in the public institutions goes a long way to even make you an employer of choice for millennials. And you know what that means right? More fresh ideas, innovation/creativity for your products and services.
Upon observation, most tertiary institutions in Ghana do not have a functional Career Services Office that prepares students for their careers, and this accounts for the high unemployment rate amongst graduates.
Here are some useful activities employers can engage students in as they prepare for the world of work:
Career workshops: Employers can volunteer to run employability workshops for students at their universities to equip them with the skills you look out for in graduates. This way, industry players, get the right fit for roles available in their organizations!!
These workshops could include interview prep sessions for students, assessment tests, as well as tips on writing a winning CV. Entrepreneurship workshops are also a winner! You can consider organizing boot camps, hackathons and other competitions to harness their entrepreneurial skills.
Research collaborations: To help bridge the gap between what is taught in school and skills needed in the corporate environment, employers can partner with tertiary institutions to explore research opportunities in the workplace. Are there any gaps in your organization you want to investigate and find solutions to? Why don’t you collaborate with universities to have students come on board to do some research and recommend creative solutions for your business? This gives students a sense of what actually goes on in the workplace and appreciate what they study in the classroom better through practical activities such as research.
Networking events: Engaging with high profile executives/employers is not a very common experience for many students throughout their stay in school, so they tend to freak out when they finally meet such profiles.
This exposure mostly happens when they graduate and are going for interviews. So you see why sometimes these students appear timid? Your presence intimidates them, and some employers don’t do a good job at making graduates or candidates feel comfortable in this first encounter. Quite unfortunate!
These students might be great talent, but they just need that support or push to come out of their shell.
Teach them how to network by inviting students who intern with you to attend some of the networking events you organize. Allow them to interact with your employees and senior management executives. With this exposure, they become confident and build their network. We all know the power of relationships and network!
Volunteer to be a guest lecturer: It is important for students to connect the practical aspects of what they learn in the classroom to what is actually done in real life. Offer some hours off work to lecture on a specific topic taught in class, to bring the practical perspective to a subject area. Students relate better when things are practical and not abstract, hence the need to bring real life work to the classroom. Apart from the fact that you are giving back to society by doing this, you build a new skill and expertise in lecturing – how does that sound!!
Employers can again, partner with institutions to share their career journey, day to day activities at work to students who might be interested in pursuing their chosen profession. Giving students access to informational interviews at your work places, where they can ask questions about career options available for them is another great way to pitch in.
Trust me, students need support to navigate their career choices.
Participate in Career Fairs: Career Fairs give students and employers the platform to engage with each other. Students get to know about opportunities available and network with recruiters. Employers also use this platform to identify potential talent for their business. So it is a win-win for both parties!
Mentorship/Job Shadowing programs: My experience working in Career Services has taught me that students find it refreshing anytime they have an industry person they can call on for some career advice. Don’t take it for granted, some students are looking forward to having a career Mentor. Someone who will guide them with planning and reaching their career goals.
As an employer/HR Manager, you can implement a mentorship program for your staff, where each of them would be required to mentor at least a student in the university. This can form part of your employee appraisal, as well as another opportunity to groom students to transition to the business world smoothly. A structured mentorship program for each employee will go a long way to get industry players to effectively engage with students and attract top talent. It can also serve as a great way to boost your employees confidence and show your trust in them.
Internship Opportunities & Graduate Development Programs: Have a well-structured internship program for students in the university while they are on long vacation – summer break. Make the program worthwhile for both your organization and the students. Open this opportunity to all students in every tertiary institution, and make the selection process fair and transparent.
Let us move from just sending our interns to run errands. We must engage them to work on projects that yield results.
Rather than just immersing fresh graduates into the corporate environment, have a structured graduate training program that grooms young talent for leadership roles.
Bridging the skills gap is a collective effort and not the role of ONLY school administrators, lectures and students. Employers definitely have a significant role to play. See this as a partnership and be proactive about the engagement. As much as some employers would expect the schools to reach out to collaborate, i believe employers can take the initiative to volunteer without waiting to be invited by the schools. Everyone has a part to play in developing our young ones who are our next future leaders. When we give them the necessary support, everyone will benefit from their success.
Employers need to be intentional
Written by Akua Ampah