University careers services could play a much wider role in helping students become employable by helping them to recognise the skills they are gaining through part-time work that they do alongside their courses, according to a report on graduate employability in Scotland.
Higher Education: Higher Ambitions? , by think-tanks Critical Thinking and Policyworks and the Scottish Council Foundation, says students working part time is an increasingly accepted norm. It says that "thinking has begun to move substantially from this being viewed as a necessary evil and a hindrance to study, to becoming an asset to employability".
This week, a report from the University of Hertfordshire showed that one in three students polled has taken a job to gain work experience.
The Critical Thinking report defines employability as an individual's ability to flourish in the job market, something separate from skills shortages and the needs of the economy.
It wants to see institutions sharing good practice to help students gain the necessary skills to be employable. It recommends that careers services in all institutions help students identify the employability skills they gain through part-time jobs and voluntary work.
Many students leave career decisions until their final year and would benefit from being encouraged to think more about career choice and the jobs market much earlier in their courses, the report says.
Jane Denholm, director of Critical Thinking, said: "We don't think higher education institutions can 'make' everybody employable, but if people could be helped a bit earlier on to see what was relevant, they would definitely be more employable."
The Scottish Higher Education Funding Council, which funded the review, is set to take a lead in promoting talks between institutions on how best to encourage students.
The council's newly completed consultation on graduate employability has found that the majority of Scottish institutions agree that careers education and guidance must be given increased priority.
A Shefc spokesperson said: "We will work with the sector and student organisations to identify how institutions can work together to improve employability and career development opportunities for graduates in Scotland."
Shefc is also commissioning a long-term study to track the progress of Scottish graduates over a number of years.
The graduate employability study found that about half the graduates deliberately went on to further study to make themselves more employable, while others took non-graduate jobs that they felt would lead to the job they wanted.