Wisdom à la mode: launch the go-getters (1 of 2)

June 23, 2011

UK colleges and universities, in common with their counterparts in other Western countries, are doing a poor job of preparing graduates for work ("Not by skills alone", 16 June). The biggest weakness in post-secondary education everywhere is that those who are responsible for higher education policy, funding, administration and delivery have little or no experience of the contemporary workplace.

How do academics who live in the land of steady pay and traditional benefits relate to the challenges graduates face in trying to make their living from contract, temporary and part-time employment with few, if any, benefits?

The academy has for generations been turning out employees. The fundamental challenge for it now is to produce entrepreneurs or students who have an enterprising approach to finding work.

We've become complacent and we need to end that complacency. If the best and brightest of our young people can't find meaningful work, we need to address it now. Graduates can't afford to wait for universities to enter the 21st century. They need to learn how to market themselves effectively, find hidden employment opportunities and even create their own jobs.

Graduates should organise themselves and come up with creative ways to connect with employers (especially small firms, where most of the action is). They must also demand that the academy and the government do more to prepare them for today's workplace - and "demand" is the operative word. Given how ossified university thinking is, change will come only if it is driven from the outside.

In the meantime, graduates must take charge of their own destinies. With a little bit of help, they're capable of doing that.

Ron McGowan, Principal, How To Find Work, Vancouver, Canada.

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