Road to recovery

As ‘anchor institutions’, our colleges and universities are vital to economic recovery, says Dr Gill Murray of Heriot-Watt University

Students leaving higher education this year are entering the most challenging job market since the economic crash of 2008. Tough times are ahead and, according to graduate job website Prospects, 28% of alumni have already seen their job offers rescinded or delayed while many employers are yet to make decisions about recruitment for the remainder of the year.

Universities and higher education establishments have a responsibility to equip the next generation of the workforce with the skills necessary to navigate the job market in a post-Covid world. Hailed as ‘anchor institutions’ in a recent report by the Scottish Government’s Advisory Group on Economic Recovery, it is clear that we universities must play our part to ensure that our teaching and postgraduate skills meet business and employer needs.

If the economy is to recover from this tumultuous time, we must take a two-pronged approach, nurturing talent from an educational standpoint and collaborating with industry to ensure graduates are fully equipped to enter the workplace in the ‘new normal’.

Nurturing talent

Students are future business leaders and, as such, will be vital in rebuilding a prosperous economy. Part of this is teaching not only the academic theory, but also the business need-to-knows, such as commercial feasibility and intellectual property.

Additionally, nurturing talent includes looking after mental wellbeing; we must look to build resilience that will serve graduates well throughout their careers.

By including emotional intelligence within the parameters of education, we can help to produce candidates who are fully rounded and can adapt to the ever-changing business landscape.

“We must take a two-pronged approach, nurturing talent from an educational standpoint and collaborating with industry to ensure graduates are fully equipped to enter the workplace”

Collaboration with industry

Collaboration will be of the utmost importance and an education-led response, in partnership with industry, will feed into economic progress.

Heriot-Watt University’s recently launched Future Made For Success initiative for post-graduate students focuses on talent and innovation as key drivers for recovery by placing industry collaboration and partnerships at its core. Partners from industry partake to demonstrate just what creativity and innovative thinking can bring to the task of building economic recovery and resilience.

Naturally, it is important to concentrate on the industries that will drive the economy. It is much debated whether the fourth industrial revolution is upon us or it is in the pipeline, but either way we must ensure students are ready to enter this. The rapid advances of technologies mean the world is more interconnected and, as a result, students should be ready to tackle global challenges. Universities and colleges will need to collaborate with industry to up-skill teams and integrate more lifelong learning to accommodate for the rate of innovation and to ensure employees are adequately equipped.

The future work landscape is changing. Graduates will enter a new environment post-Covid and it is essential that higher education incorporates adaptability into its teaching to build a workforce that will not only help economic recovery worldwide, but also be prosperous in doing so.

Dr Gill Murray is deputy principal for enterprise and business at Heriot-Watt University

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