Blog: How businesses can work with universities to address skills shortages
Having graduated with a degree in Occupational Psychology with a Diploma in Careers Guidance, Lisa McWilliams has held a number of leadership and management roles in higher education and in both pre- and post-16 education.
Currently, Lisa is Head of Careers and Employability at Keele University and also serves on a number of national committees for the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS). In this blog, Lisa offers her advice on how businesses can work with universities to address skills shortages.
Earlier this month, the Midlands Engine partnership unveiled a £33bn investment portfolio which could create 220,000 jobs in the Midlands, but with the rise in national job vacancies echoing through Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire, how can universities help businesses to recruit effectively and fill skills gaps?
You may think this is a trick question, as the obvious answer is utilising the graduate market. But there is a wealth of additional ways in which businesses can utilise a university’s expertise, resources, and talent.
Upskill your current employees
Where you have a skills gap within a business, your existing workforce could be the answer. Universities offer a range of options from continuous professional development courses to fully-funded support programmes, as well as apprenticeships and postgraduate study.
In the latest National Apprenticeship Service Employer Survey, 86% of employers said that apprentices helped to develop relevant skills for the organisation and to fill the skills gap.
Universities can provide tailored support for your business, offering advice on how to utilise the apprenticeship levy, as well as guidance on compliance and the contracting process. Best of all, the member of staff continues to work within your organisation whilst gaining a qualification.
Many universities offer fully-funded support programmes, Keele University included. Through the Keele Gateway, local businesses can access a range or programmes, offering various support from digital skills to leadership development. Eligibility criteria applies, but the programmes are externally funded so there is no cost to businesses to take part.
Lastly, with the increase in part-time and online postgraduate study, there are more opportunities to learn while you earn. Employers can keep staff within their business, while employees have the opportunity to gain a qualification whilst still earning a salary.
Gain a fresh perspective
Have you got a specific project but no resource to complete it? An internship or placement can be a low-risk approach to growing your workforce or accessing specialist knowledge, often giving your business a fresh perspective at the same time as giving a student valuable industry experience.
Mondrem, a community interest company, has taken an innovative approach to internships - giving interns immediate responsibility and making them project leads from day one. Mike Astbury, Managing Director, said:
“The calibre of interns we have received from Keele University has been very high. We are an innovative company and aim to get the best out of those we employ by giving them full control and responsibility of a set area or project in the business. This provides a role that is exciting for them and also achieves our aims.
“A unique attribute of employing interns is that their minds are not constrained by experience or convention. They are able to look at problems with a fresh pair of eyes. Experience is good but sometimes sticking with a way that you know works well can stop you from trying new ways that might work even better.”
Find new talent
Of course, universities have a wealth of talented graduates ready to enter the jobs market each year, but in the ever-competitive market have you considered working with Keele’s Careers & Employability team to effectively recruit for the skills that your business needs?
The team offer a range of services including arranging on-campus interviews, workplace visits, and networking events. Our next Careers Fair takes place on Tuesday 18 October 2022 and it’s free to host a stand - you can register your interest here. Alternatively, there are a series of ‘Coffee with Employers’ events which take place throughout the year, providing opportunities to meet students and discuss your organisation, roles, and sector.