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July 22, 2013 | by  | in News |
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C’s Get Degrees, But Skills Pay the Bills

Graduates need more than just grades to appeal to New Zealand employers, says Chair of Universities New Zealand Professor Roy Crawford.

Opening a recent Graduate Employment Conference in Auckland, Crawford—who is also Vice-Chancellor of the University of Waikato—implored universities to equip graduates with more than just academic skill-sets.

“A key role for a university is to prepare graduates for careers. Not just imparting short-term skills that can become outdated quickly in the modern world,” Dr Crawford said.

“Quite often they [employers] are not looking at the grades, they are looking at the individual and the broader range of skills that they have hopefully developed at the university.”

Manager of Career Development and Employment at Student Services Liz Medford says grades are important to employers, but they are increasingly looking for more. Good grades are not the sole graduate-attribute coveted, with volunteering, peer-mentoring, involvement with clubs and associations, overseas exchanges, work experiences, internships, and leadership programmes also valued by employers.

“‘Employability’ is increasingly defined as a set of achievements—skills, understandings and personal attributes—that make graduates more likely to gain employment and be successful in their chosen occupations. This benefits the graduate, the workforce, the community and the economy,” Medford said.

Universities are challenged with preparing students for a world which is constantly changing, where new jobs are being created just as quickly as technology is advancing. Companies are focussing on attrition rates due to people increasingly changing positions and careers in the course of their lifetime.

Transferable skills such as resilience, excellent verbal and oral communication skills, the ability to relate to and work with others, self-management, presentation skills, and the ability to ‘look outside the square’ are key to adapting to that change and to a successful future.

While students typically gain many of these skills while studying, there could be a role for universities to more clearly recognise specific skills.

Medford says there are a wealth of opportunities here at Victoria and in the wider Wellington community which can help students enhance their degree.

“Entrepreneurial skills are also in demand; students need to be job-creators, not just job-seekers.

“The Victoria Plus Award, the service and leadership programme run out of Vic Careers, [is] an excellent way to start,” Medford said.

CareerHub can be used to find a job, check out valuable resources, book for workshops, appointments and career events, or access the Resume Builder or ePortfolio. Students can log in using their student computing account: careerhub.victoria.ac.nz. They can also visit the Careers office at 14 Kelburn Pde, call the office on (04) 463 5393, or email careers-service@vuw.ac.nz.

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