Gringo challenge

August 28, 2014

The article on “gringos” (“graduates in non-graduate occupations”) lingering in underemployment for too long highlights an important issue (“Hey gringo, are you still there?”, News, 14 August).

It would be folly to try to pinpoint any one cause for overstaying the “stepping stone” and missing employment opportunities. Ultimately it is the responsibility of students to go out and make the most of the skills and experience they have gathered in higher education. That said, universities should play a proactive role in encouraging and providing opportunity for alumni to progress into graduate positions and beyond, one of the key purposes of university study being to enhance skills and employment.

It is important to whet the appetite of students for their intended post-education career so that they are encouraged to look for opportunities. Getting first-hand experience is key to this, whether through placements, project work, volunteering or work-based learning opportunities with potential employers. It’s a terrific way to remind students of their ambition and demonstrate what they can achieve by taking matters into their own hands post-graduation.

The article further refers to the “silencing” of discussion inside universities about preparing students for life as a gringo. Perhaps this is the most concerning thing about the report. Universities should be raising their students’ awareness of the opportunities and challenges they might face post-graduation to help them prepare accordingly.

At the University of the West of Scotland, we have a number of initiatives in place – from work-based learning modules involving a wide range of employers, to our Volunteering Academy and our applied enterprise top-up degree – that equip students with business start-up skills for life in self-employment, regardless of their chosen subject.

When opportunities don’t exist, it is time to make your own. Perhaps that is the message we should be communicating to our undergraduates throughout their higher education career.

Craig Mahoney
Principal and vice-chancellor
University of the West of Scotland

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