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How to Improve Your Students’ Employability

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Professors, Educators, Teachers, and Lecturers: In the ever-evolving modern landscape of academia, it is no longer simply enough to impart your expertise, knowledge, and wisdom on a chosen subject. The days are gone where graduates were released into the world to fend for themselves in a complex job market. Now, they must be nurtured, prepared, and coached for what lies ahead. It's your job to see to it that your students’ employability factor is as strong as can be. 

In this article, we’re going to give you the resources to do exactly that.

What makes someone employable? 

There is no secret formula, but the hybrid accumulation of soft skills, a positive and professional attitude, relevant experience and qualifications, and being likeable are important factors. In a sense, it’s skills, knowledge, and attitude combined, in a way that makes an employer think "Yes, this person should work for me!” 

Knowledge is most important. For many jobs, the requirements ask for someone who knows how to do the task at hand. This is quite self-explanatory, but in essence, you couldn’t really hire a chef to work fixing cars, and you wouldn’t hire a scuba diver to teach history classes. However, whilst knowledge is a prerequisite for almost any job (excluding those which promise to teach you as you work), it offers no guarantees. A degree or certificate may help, but to be employable, graduates will also need…

Soft skills. This means skills relating to critical thinking, public speaking, problem-solving, teamwork, leadership, work ethic, and more. It also incorporates attitude, unique traits and skills, as well as…

Experience! Employers are looking at what someone has done just as much as they’re looking at who they are. Subjects studied and grades received will offer less to an employer who values an applicant that used their free time to work and gain skills. Having worked, whether full time or part-time, may indicate some commercial awareness skills, teamwork abilities, good communication, being organised with time and responsibilities, the ability to perform under pressure, and more. Simply having graduated with a relevant degree might not cut it anymore. 

Ok, let’s get on with some top tips for professors and educators to help their students with this issue.

Tip One: Keep it Simple!

Professors have a duty to impart knowledge, but it must be reviewed regularly as to whether this knowledge is relevant, up-to-date, and useful from the perspective of a new worker or graduate in the industry. 

Your curriculum was designed to balance theory with relevance, but sometimes that balance can quickly become unbalanced as an industry outpaces its education. Can you imagine trying to teach ICT with technology moving as fast as it does now? Still, you should be able to at least teach critical thinking and analysis through your classes, two vital skills for employability. 

In short: simplify your material so that it is useful and that information is actionable. 

Tip Two: Encourage Work Experience

Teach your students to value work and work-related activities, such as volunteering and supporting community projects. Some students don’t see the value in working part-time whilst doing their degrees, whilst others feel that financially they simply don’t need to. Later, they may come to the stark realisation that they have zero experience, something employers don’t like.

Teach your students to find personal development opportunities in part-time and voluntary work. Communicating with customers. Meeting deadlines. Executing sales. Working with computers and learning software. Helping people from different demographics. Developing emotional intelligence by understanding customer needs. There are so many things to learn. 

So many graduates end up in unpaid internship positions upon graduating that many employers have learned that they can take advantage of free labour. The graduates see value in these positions because they get to put it on their CVs. Of course, had they got some work experience previously, they’d have a better chance of going straight into a paid position or graduate scheme. 

Volunteering shows further skills that are deemed employable, such as initiative, compassion, and valuing things other than financial reward.

Tip Three: Hobbies are HOT!

Hands-On Training - HOT! Hobbies are a person’s way of training themselves in the things they are passionate about, demonstrating that they live a varied and active life away from academia. 

The majority of businesses see great value in applicants who have interesting hobbies. Someone who has the commitment to learn an instrument or a second language shows long-term application. People who play team sports or are members of interesting clubs show teamwork and communication skills. 

A student might think that their pottery classes, knitting obsession, or stamp collection are superfluous and silly and that employers would think them frivolous, but they’d be wrong. 

It’s your job as the educator to show them that what makes them different is what makes them brilliant and that their hobbies make them more personable to employers. At the end of the day, employers are looking for humans, not robots (depending on what year you read this article!). 

Tip Four: Stress the Importance of Technology

The world is digitizing. It’s unavoidable. Everything now is software, gadgets, apps, SaaS, analytics, automation, IoT, blockchain and plenty of other words that didn’t exist half a century ago. Fail to adapt and the world will move on without you. Your students have the advantage that most of them are likely to be digital natives, having grown up with technology and thus boasting an extraordinary innate ability to quickly understand and utilise technology. 

Instructors cannot show their students every single innovation, but they should make an effort to show them ways to keep on top of technological change. For example, architecture students will learn how to use CAD software, but they might not be shown the latest updates and improvements to the basic programs. You, as an educator, should try to inspire them to become interested in technological advances in their chosen field. 

Tip Five: Simulate real-world business environments

What better way to prepare students for the world of work than to encourage them to participate in business simulations and exercises. These tools and platforms are designed to help those who want to learn more about themselves, their skills, and their decision-making. Students boost their chances of both finding and keeping a new job when they’re familiar with their own professional abilities.

In Conclusion…

Allow us to simplify what we’ve explored in this piece:

  • Knowledge, soft skills, and experience should be nurtured in equal measure to create a perfect soup of employability for your students

  • Work experience gives your students a chance to put their skills to the test and become more well-rounded individuals, whether doing so for a profit or not

  • Hobbies show values, skills, abilities, interests, and commitment to an activity, all of which can demonstrate a good fit to a potential employer. Drill this information into your students’ minds!

  • Keep on top of a rapidly-changing and dynamic technological workplace, and show students ways to find out what tools their ideal employers are using

  • Consider implementing simulations into the classroom to prepare students for the workplace via this effective “learning by doing” method.

Are you ready to start moulding the next generation for the future workplace? Request a free instructor demo of our business simulations to get you started.

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