10/08/2006

Universities urged to build links with employers

Universities must build stronger links with local employers to increase the skills of the future graduate workforce according to a new report.

According to the report from the University of Hertfordshire's Graduate Forum, the best work experience is gleaned through a university's relationship with local employers yet these relations need to be improved to give undergraduates the opportunity to build their work experience portfolio and ensure they are 'work ready' when they graduate.

New research from the University of Hertfordshire shows that close to one in three (31%) employers admit they don't offer any work experience at their organisation - yet almost half (46%) of employers ranked relevant work experience as one of the most important things when looking for potential new recruits.

Currently less than a third of businesses (31%) have a good relationship with their local university and 29% claim to have no relationship at all with local higher education institutions.

Despite close to half (46%) of employers agreeing that their organisation should have a stronger relationship with their local university, only a quarter (25%) are actively planning to forge better links over the next few years.

Stephen Boffey, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and director of admissions at the University of Hertfordshire, commented:

"It is essential that all universities and employers work together to offer paid or unpaid work experience to undergraduates so that students are 'work ready' when they graduate. This will help to build the workforce for tomorrow.

"If students are selecting a university, either this September or through the University Clearing process, school leavers will need to think very carefully about the institution's links with employers to increase their prospects of employment when they graduate."

Member of the Graduate Forum, Richard Tunnicliffe, Regional Director of the CBI, said:

"In today's fast moving world it is often too easy for employers to overlook the importance of work experience not only to the placement students themselves, but also to the organisation. Having a fresh set of eyes looking at a problem with a different perspective can often be what it needs to be solved.

"Students should be encouraged to engage in work experience not only as an undergraduate at university, but from as young an age as possible. Employers want staff that have the fundamentals of a great education, but also the general know how that work experience gives."

The University of Hertfordshire's Graduate Forum also reveals the importance of higher education. Despite the increasing cost of university, a degree will open doors to employment and increase the probability of a higher wage in the future, with graduates set to earn on average over £2,500 a year more than someone with just A level qualifications.

The findings come a week before sixth-formers open their A-level results to see whether they have made the grades for their chosen university. Around 40,000 youngsters will find university places through the university clearing system this August.

(SP)

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