ECS degrees - preparing graduates for the world of work
A major report published today calls for universities and employers to give more priority to ensuring students’ employability skills and industrial experience – areas where ECS is already receiving highly positive feedback from graduate employers.
Launching the report in London this morning (26 March) Future Fit: Preparing graduates for the world of work, (pdf) CBI Director-General Richard Lambert highlighted the importance employers place on ‘employability’ skills – such as self-management, team-working, customer awareness and problem solving – when recruiting graduates. He urged students to gain these vital employability skills and experience of the workplace while at university, so they are better equipped to compete in the increasingly tough jobs market after graduation.
‘Of course businesses don’t expect graduates to arrive on day one fully trained,’ he said, ‘but what they do value in graduates are their people skills, a focus on the customer and a keenness to solve problems. It’s no good graduates regretting not taking up opportunities once they leave university – many universities are keen to help them gain work experience during their degree.’
In the School of Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton the undergraduate degree programmes are designed to ensure that students undertake a range of projects as part of their coursework. This helps them acquire valuable skills including: team-work, project planning, time management, working to a brief, and communication and presentation skills. The projects culminate in the fourth year of the Master of Engineering degrees when students undertake a challenging Group Design Project over three months, where they are tasked to provide the solution to a real industrial problem for an exacting client such as Detica, Roke Manor Research, Nokia, Imagination Technologies, and IBM.
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Students in ECS are also encouraged to take summer internships and 12-month industrial placements and they benefit from a strong interest from leading high-tech companies who are keen to recruit them both for short-term placements and graduate positions.
Professor Alun Vaughan, Deputy Head of School for Education, strongly endorses the CBI view: ‘It is a difficult job market at the moment,’ he said, ‘but we believe that the skills our students gain during their degree programmes will give them a real advantage. Employers are looking for more than just wide-ranging technical knowledge – they are looking for the ability to understand problems in the context of business, and the skills and determination to work individually or as part of a team to get the best result.
‘We not only help ensure that our students have these skills when they graduate but we also encourage students to take industrial placements where possible, which add to their understanding of how the technology they are learning is used in the workplace.’
James Snowdon, a final-year student in Electronic Engineering, spent last summer working in London for Goldman Sachs, providing support to one of their trading teams. ‘I could see the importance of the systems I was developing since they helped the traders to make money!,’ he said. ‘I also gained greater professional awareness which helped increase my confidence in dealing with customers.’ When he graduates this summer James will be joining CapGemini’s graduate programme .
In addition to providing the kinds of degree programmes that are highly valued by graduate employers, ECS also works closely with employers to ensure that its students have excellent opportunities to gain placements and graduate positions. Our ECS Careers Hub web site has affiliates from UK and global high-tech companies and students are encouraged to begin thinking about their future careers from early in the first year of their degrees.
‘We really want to see our students make an impact in the workplace when they graduate,’ said Professor Vaughan. ‘We provide them with the skills with which they can succeed. We want to see those skills put to best use in business and industry.’