Students and employability: Part 2

So, here’s part 2 on my little series of blogs on students and employability, the last blog looked at Students’ knowledge/understanding of what employers are looking for and how this is developed in university through the likes of PDP or employability modules, Massive thanks to everyone who got in touch with your thoughts as well. Just as a little reminder, here’s the 4 points I highlighted as key areas to explore and unpick.

  1. Students’ knowledge/understanding of what employers are looking for.
  2. Lack of work placement opportunities in the Arts and Sciences curriculum.
  3. Not a strong enough relationship between Universities, small-medium sized businesses (SME’s) and students.
  4. Poor economy/job market.

2. Lack of work placement opportunities in the Arts and Sciences curriculum.

One of things I hear most often from students and one of the things I seem to keep reading is that students don’t have enough work placement opportunities, particularly students studying Arts and Sciences programmes. There are a few questions that could be asked as to why this doesn’t currently happen, possibly a lack of resources within a University to co-ordinate that many extra work placements? A lack of work placement opportunities in the local area? Or perhaps it’s that for some students it’s not clear cut what sort of work placement they should undertake to fit in with their programme of study? E.g. History students.

I don’t think it comes as a surprise to most people that if 2 very similar candidates go for the same position, but 1 of those has experience of working in a comparable environment, then the candidate with the work experience is likely to get the job every time. Employers are often not just looking someone who meets the person specification and can demonstrate a set of skills through examples, but are as well looking for someone that can hit the ground running, step straight into a role and start from the word go. Something employers feel they will get more of with a candidate who has experience in the real world in a similar work environment.

This is a perception that is unlikely to change and I don’t see many reasons why it would, someone with experience in the field regardless of how much, is likely to be favoured over a candidate with none, it’s just a safer bet for businesses. So the real point does solely square with increasing work placement opportunities for students while their earning their further or higher education qualifications.

Although for students that already have work placements as part of their curriculum it’s not always plain sailing, many students have additional costs of traveling to a placement, not completely covered by their institution, and some students are significantly delayed in getting placed at all, sometimes extending their time at university and delaying their graduation. So lots to think about here….

My first thoughts are that although there are challenges and potential difficulties for universities and their students, every single student studying in higher education should have the opportunity to undertake an appropriate work placement. This may rely on a lot of students having to source their own placement (many already do this) and finding the right placement to suit them and their career aspirations, but universities need to be able to offer as much support as possible throughout this process, highlighting possible options, helping students make contact with potential placements, supporting them if they encounter difficulties, and ensuring reasonable travel arrangements do not put them out of pocket. Again as with my previous blog I’m going to wait for the final blog of the series to lay down what my recommendations would be, and again it would be great to hear some of your views on the above.

That’ll do for this area, make sure you keep an eye out for the next blog in the series which will focus on relationship between Universities, small-medium sized businesses (SME’s) and students. Looking primarily at why students are possibly reluctant to explore SME’s, but also why some SME’s might be reluctant to recruit graduates, and what universities can do to change this.

As always feel free to leave a comment or get in touch with me directly, you can e-mail me at or phone me on 01695 657311

Thanks again for reading


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