Helping graduates flourish

As part of Global Entrepreneurship Week, Universities Scotland is highlighting how universities in Scotland are embedding entrepreneurship and enterprise in students and staff. Across eight blogs this week, we have experts the length and breadth of Scotland telling their stories about how universities are contributing to make Scotland an entrepreneurial nation.

Our first blog this week comes from Shona Johnston, the Convener of AGCAS Scotland. AGCAS is the membership organisation for higher education student career development and graduate employment professionals. Through its members, they support the best possible career outcomes from higher education of individuals, institution, wider society and the economy.

In a changing world, careers services are preparing students and graduates to create jobs that did not exist five years ago.

All graduates need to develop the self-efficacy to shape their own futures rather than just to respond to it. The skills required to navigate this uncertain future have not changed significantly in recent years and the qualities of self-management, resilience, flexibility and creativity are still the basis of much of our activity with students. But the routes available to develop these skills in our universities is varied and continually evolving.

We work with students every day and find they are not necessarily interested in definitions of what we mean by employability, enterprise and entrepreneurship, but get inspired by taking part in meaningful activity where they work with others to solve problems with real-world impact. This isn’t just for students with an interest in big business – workshops and competitions can deliver an understanding of how organisations work – and value created through entrepreneurial activity can be social or cultural as well as financial.

One exciting development has been the opportunity to embed these skills and opportunities in curricula across our universities, where they will be available to all students rather than what happened in the past where it might just those who are motivated enough, or have the social and cultural capital, to access them. Career services professionals are always flexible and pragmatic and have adapted to a huge variety of models for embedding employability and enterprise skills – from delivering stand-alone modules to contributing as a co-deliverer or consultant when academics are building these skills into their classes.

This applies equally when students are learning about the world of business through work-based learning as a part of their degree programme. The Making it Happen report highlighted the need to expand this opportunity to as many students as possible. Also necessary was reducing the barriers that make it less attractive to those who stand to benefit most, by setting out a clear commitment that placement activity should be expanded, and should always be paid or credit-bearing. This has already led to valuable sharing of best practice across the sector: for example frameworks which allow universities to ensure that placements are recorded and quality checked, or innovative methods to assess the learning gained through placement.

Whether learning takes place in the curriculum, the workplace or an extra-curricular activity, students require personalised advice and informed guidance to help them make sense of what the experience means for their future. Our member services offer a range of support to help them develop and implement plans for their next steps, and opportunities to make contact with employers and external organisations who can help along the way.

Another important factor is being able to clearly articulate the skills gained through these experiences. We often meet students who don’t mention that they led projects, developed colleagues or came up with ideas. Many of our services offer skills awards which help students to convey what they’ve gained through experiences outside the curriculum to future employers or funders.

We know our students will go on to have unpredictable career journeys, and whether they work for themselves or someone else, we believe that the transferable skills and attitudes that they’ve developed in their time at university will help them to flourish in the future.


You can read the rest of the blogs in this series as they are published at: