LinkedInHow universities can future-proof graduate employability

How universities can future-proof graduate employability

At a time of fundamental change in the workforce, the challenge to match graduate skills with industry demands has never been greater

Future graduates will need to regularly upskill during their careers and universities have a tougher task than ever to prepare them for the workplace.

A Times Higher Education webinar, held in partnership with LinkedIn as part of THE’s Europe Universities Summit, explored future trends in student employability.

Nicola Doherty, head of education for EMEA and Latin America at LinkedIn, said today’s graduates were entering an economy and labour market disrupted by the rapid pace of innovation and technological change. A McKinsey report published in 2020 estimated about 59 million European jobs were at risk from automation.

“Students today have a very different expectation of the world,” Doherty said. “They’re able to connect with their friends, easily register or attend classes online, or learn the latest skills online. They now have an on-demand mindset and they’re bringing this mindset with them to university, which makes preparing students for the future workforce more challenging than ever before.”

Universities must also work to close the perceived gap between graduate skills and industry expectations. A LinkedIn survey of students found that 61 per cent of respondents said higher education didn’t prepare them for their workplace.

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the growing impact of AI technology in propelling automation, and the increasing need for graduates to have the technological acumen to compete.

“What the pandemic has done is shone a very harsh light on what was already a widening skills gap,” Doherty said. “That’s the gap that needs to be filled with greater urgency to accelerate economic recovery and come out of this pandemic.”

Miranda Prynne, content curator at THE, asked what employability skills were in demand from employers. To meet the changing needs of employers, Doherty said, graduates required a blend of “soft” and “hard” skills, but warned technical skills were more quickly becoming outdated.

“The shelf life of skills is getting smaller and smaller. Research has indicated that technical skills that we would have expected in the past to have had a shelf life of about 10 years, now have a shelf life of about two-and-a-half years,” Doherty said. “In terms of employability, it’s incredibly difficult if you’re not connected with the data and seeing the trends to get ahead of that so graduates are future-proofed.”

LinkedIn works with educational partners to manage these challenges and macroeconomic pressure by harnessing insights from its data. The platform hosts more than 722 million members and 55 million companies with up to 14 million open jobs at any time, offering institutions the opportunity to adopt a data-driven approach to skills training.

Watch the session on demand above or on the THE Connect YouTube channel.

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