Curriculo Solutions | Blog

The value of work experience and career skills development for university students

Karen Glen
Monday, 25/09/2017 - 09:53

Work experience isn’t just about bolstering CVs, it’s about acquiring the right skills and aiding career planning.

Work experience and internships are not new methods for bolstering CVs and career planning. School and university students have long sought after placements, volunteer work and part-time jobs to introduce them to the professional world and help them decide what line of work to pursue after their studies. Students need to actively shape their careers as early as possible. An important part of this is securing work experience that not only looks good on their CVs but also helps develop the employability skills that employers are looking for.

Students who don’t have work experience are unlikely to receive job offers

Work placements come in many forms: from paid and unpaid internships to volunteer work and part-time work. Any work experience undertaken by students carries value in terms of skill development and enhancing career prospects and career planning. It exposes students to the pace of professional life, provides the information and insights that can assist in choosing career paths, introduces them to the attributes required in working life and offers them a chance to take on new levels of responsibility. Work experience is often just as important as a degree, with research from 2013 by High Fliers indicating that students without work experience are unlikely to be offered a job.

Work experience not only benefits hopeful job seekers but employers too

The job market has always been perceived as competitive, however, 2017 presents graduates with a fiercely more competitive landscape than ever before. Work experience twenty years ago served the purpose of offering young people a taster of different career paths and adding weight to a CV. Today, it is also a means for employers to identify and recruit talent. By offering students (from as early as their first year) short-term work placements, organisations can determine whether candidates are suitable for a role. This has been a growing trend since 2011, as shown by data collected by High Fliers Research for their Graduate Market Report 2017 (see Chart 4.1).

Work placements facilitate networking: an integral part of career planning

When it comes to career planning, the power of networking can not be understated. Opportunities flow through people and connections: a solid CV containing relevant work experience, evidence of the employability skills employers want and a solid degree won’t attract job offers on its own. Building a professional network is an ongoing process that should start before students graduate and one that will continue throughout their entire careers. Social network platforms have greatly facilitated networking, but nothing trumps the value of real-life professional connections. Work placements expose students to a network of professionals within their field of interest and encourage them to begin honing invaluable networking skills.  

Students want more from a university degree than only the theoretical understanding of a subject

A university degree, as valuable as it may be, does not carry the bargaining power that it used to. Graduates need quite a bit more to turn themselves into desirable job candidates and ensure that their career planning efforts turn into real opportunities. A degree proves theoretical understanding of a subject, but these days employers prioritise transferable skills, such as the ability to communicate, problem solve, work in a team and market oneself. After all, the technical aspects of a job can be taught more easily than soft skills. These soft skills are not often attributes taught as part of the core curriculum at universities. Be this as it may, students still select a university based on how well that institution can prepare them for a career. If you can demonstrate that they’ll receive the support and tools necessary to develop the skills they need to prosper professionally, it’ll positively impact your brand reputation and ability to attract talent on an international level, thereby facilitating your institution’s progression up the tier system.

The right career development programme can help your students to kick start their careers

Work-readiness training should not be left up to your students to manage. Curriculo’s Industry Engagement Programme (IEP) has been designed by industry leaders to develop in students the employability skills and mindset needed to forge successful careers. It is structured to be autodidactic and to fit alongside any degree course. As well as incorporating career development training alongside the core curriculum, a mindset of improving student employability needs to be adopted across the university, too.

For more information about enhancing student employability, download our guide:

Improve Student Outcomes


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