Tuesday, 13 June 2017
We were delighted to welcome Bernard Strutt, Head of Undergraduate Admissions at the University of Manchester, to present this evening’s talk. Bernard described how the student world has altered dramatically over the last 10-20 years and how what is meant by employability has changed. Employers used to focus on qualifications, now the emphasis is much more on experience and strategic placements. Using the example of a law firm job application, Bernard demonstrated how competitive the marketplace is for top jobs, with employers asking applicants to describe their experience and positions of responsibility held in education, sport, academic and sporting awards, DofE Gold, debating societies, clubs formed or chaired, standards reached on musical instruments, languages spoken, theatre or dance performances, volunteering and charity work and travel experience.
When choosing a university it is important to equally consider location, course and reputation. The choice of course matters for certain careers but 66% of graduate jobs advertised ask for any discipline. Developing and demonstrating transferable skills is key and students should focus on co-curricular and extra-curricular activities to boost their employability. Employers are not looking for “brains on a stick”.
The evening was chaired by Dr Stephen Holland, Director of Higher Education Applications at Bolton School, and thoughtful questions from the audience included the difficulties of obtaining relevant work experience; again the point was made that it should be about developing transferable skills, not necessarily working in the area intended as a career.
Advice for parents of boys at school included seeking out work experience, reading round the subject intended to be studied at university and focus on supra-curricular activities – reflect on skills gained and how to evidence and articulate these. The audience was advised to help their sons balance aspiration with realism, balance emotional and practical considerations, attend university open days, and understand and evaluate any offers made, making appropriate firm and insurance choices.
Afterwards many members of the audience remained to ask further questions informally, and they reflected that the presentation and discussion had been most useful in helping them navigate through planning for the journey beyond school.
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