Gradsouthwest supports employability in Universities

Tuesday, February 6, 2018
Gradsouthwest Director, Dr Deborah Watson speaks as part of Plymouth University's ‘Employability Voices Project’. The project has created a series of short podcasts aimed at academic staff with advice from employers to include:
  • What are the benefits to students of involving employers?
  • What are the benefits to academics of involving employers?
  • What advice do you have about the world of work?



I'm Deborah Watson, I'm currently Director of Gradsouthwest. We are a regional job board that helps graduates that want to work locally work in the South West and helps local employers recruit graduates they need to fill their jobs.

What are the benefits to students of involving employers?

We always find it's really important for students to have had some engagement with employers before they go for that first job interview. They need to know a little bit about what the world of work is about because actually we all need to know what the world of work is about. And if they can pick up experience on route through then we find that's really beneficial both to the student looking for work and to the employer

When I became an employer I spent quite a few years mentoring students and the change in them over just a very short work placement from a student who doesn't really know how work works to somebody who's actually very useful in the office. It builds their confidence, it makes them a more rounded person. So I think it's really important for the student and actually if you're an academic and your students are getting that confidence, getting that understanding, getting that rounded belief in themselves, then that's good for their academic studies as well.

What are the benefits to academics of involving employers?

Academics are just humans, employers are just humans, it's just about relationships and there's something beneficial for both of them. So for an academic who works with an employer, they get an insight into what's happening in the industry at the moment, which might be beneficial for their teaching, it might be beneficial for their research. It will certainly be beneficial for their students who get an insight into the type of work they can do. From an employer's perspective,which is where I've sat, actually knowing what's going on in universities, understanding what academics are doing and how they work and getting students in to bring in new ideas, it's really beneficial.

They do work differently: academics and businesses often work on different timescales, but it doesn't mean you can't work together and I've worked with both for many, many years now and it's quite possible. It just requires a little bit of give and take on both sides and then understanding that you are coming at it from different perspectives but there are useful things you will both get out of it.

What advice do you have about the world or work?

The world work: it's just part of life actually and the things you need for work - you need to work with people, you need to be able to work on your own, you need to work in teams, you need to have empathy, you need to have project management skills, you need to be able to communicate, you need all of those skills in work that you need in life. So actually, if people are getting employability skills, they're getting life skills, and I think an academic who is training their students in both their academic subject and life skills is training them in employability skills and they just need to make sure students come out knowing that and having the confidence that they can walk into work and they can add value - but it's a lifelong learning process.