It's good to talk, says new guide

February 11, 2000

For more students to get top jobs, universities' and employers' representatives must better articulate what they want from each other. That is the recommendation of a guide to labour-market information published last week, writes Alison Goddard.

"The devil is in the detail. It is not enough for employers to say they want more IT graduates, or for universities to say they turn out well-rounded people who should be able to slot straight into jobs. We need a much more sophisticated dialogue," said Sir David Watson, vice-chancellor of the University of Brighton, who chaired the study's project steering committee.

The guide, by Andrew Maginn and Sally Dench of the Institute for Employment Studies, examines the existing labour market information available to universities and colleges.

"There is a gap between the rhetoric and enthusiasm for the regional agenda found at conferences and the frustrating reality of missing and irrelevant data in regional reports," said Mr Maginn.

For universities to plug that gap, staff should exert a greater influence over labour market information by, for example, participation in networks led by regional bodies that consider economic and labour market issues; inviting researchers from these regional bodies to participate in higher education networks; offering to assist some TECs to shape their research programmes; and offering to contribute information about their institution and the sector for future labour market reports.

The market for postgraduate courses for those already in work would benefit from improving the dialogue between universities and employers' representatives.

The study was funded by the Department for Education and Employment, the University of Brighton, the University of Sussex, Oxford Brookes University, Heart of England TEC and Sussex Enterprise.

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