What do you do when a degree is not enough?

It’s becoming increasingly clear that academic credentials alone are not enough to make graduates employable in today’s ever-demanding job market. In a recent article for the World Economic Forum blog, Sebastien Turbot comments that: “For employers, a college degree is no longer the only criteria that counts.” A university degree provides evidence of certain kinds of skill and knowledge, and evidences a student’s academic prowess. This clearly, however, does not cover everything that an employable graduate needs.

In fact 55% of young people do not feel they are prepared for work by their university. Universities are starting to focus on employability in terms of promoting work experience and industrial placements for their students, but perhaps they should be turning to other areas to equip their graduates.

In addition, labor demands are transitioning from “savoir-faire” to “savoir-être”, with a growing focus on “soft skills” or non-cognitive skills. Survey after survey indicate that companies around the world want to hire employees with four key traits: communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking.
– Sebastien Turbot, “Is higher education equipping young people for the jobs market?”

These kind of “soft skills” are often not found in academic study, but in the countless non-academic extra-curricular activities that students partake in. Being part of a student society can develop collaboration skills and demonstrates commitment, whilst being a member of a volunteering project can indicate communication skills and creativity.

Clearly employers are cognisant of the importance of these skills. They might, however, feel that there is no way to verifiably measure these skills in their candidates. The Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR) bridges this gap. First and foremost, it is a way for students and graduates to provide evidence of their academic credentials, which have been independently verified by their university. Increasingly, however, non-academic achievements are being recorded and verified through the official body of the awarding University. This means that students can credibly state their role in a certain society or team, and showcase their achievements and engagement outside of academia.

This helps to differentiate students for employers, who are encountering growing numbers of graduates with outstanding academic achievements. Through the HEAR, employers can start to see which candidates have these additional, transferable skills. It enables employers to learn so much more about a candidate than just their degree classification.

Many universities are using Gradintel to provide their HEAR services to their students. Students from our partner institutions (see the full list here) can log in to view their HEAR themselves, and can also send it to potential employers. Employers then have access to a rich and verified store of data about the candidate. Students can also send their report electronically to prospective universities to support their applications for postgraduate study.

To answer Sebastien Turbot’s original question: “Is higher education equipping young people for the jobs market?” perhaps more so than he initially suggests. Some universities are now starting to offer these tools to their students, but it requires students being proactive to gain these skills so that they can be evidence on their HEARs. Looking at the holistic student experience, and not academic credentials alone, students and graduates can demonstrate just how employable they are.

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