OPPORTUNITY SHOULD KNOCK MORE THAN ONCE for today’s graduates.
That is based on current social trends as much as workplace projections.
But turning myriad career chances into success will depend upon the ability to adapt, create or reinvent.
Pro Vice-Chancellor Learning and Teaching, Professor Liz Burd, offers some insights into graduate profiles.
“What do we want a University of Newcastle graduate to look like?” she asks.
“Very much employable, with the ability to learn how to learn for the rest of their career.
“But more than that. It is all about the educational experience.”
Professor Andrew Parfitt, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) says the university is future-proofing students for multiple careers.
“They will need to relearn perhaps several times over a lifetime, whether it is in the same or a different profession,” he says.
“If we don’t instil a range of skills such as problem solving, and the capacity to think through complex issues, then we are doing our graduates a disservice in the longer term. For that reason their undergraduate formative education at university has to provide a platform of learning to learn.”
Engineers, for example, will need to graduate with more than the technical skills that in the past might have kept them employed. They will need entrepreneurial skills to help them set up new businesses or create the opportunity to plug into global supply chains.
“They will need to be able to work on a global stage,” says Professor Parfitt.
“They will need the capability to join things up, whether it is infrastructure or manufacturing or other areas, and to be able to think about different opportunities for their businesses in the future.”
Professor Liz Burd identifies three University of Newcastle strategies to prepare and future-proof graduates: academically distinct yet career-ready; locally engaged and globally aware; and entrepreneurial with social responsibility.
Students’ experience of the three strategies prepares them for workforce opportunities. Anything they do relating to understanding communities as a whole, whether global or local, is going to help them operate in an entrepreneurial environment and kick-start their thinking around social responsibility.
“It’s about building a capacity in one area, which then helps build capacity in the others,” says Professor Burd.
“This is the opportunity UON offers to build skills and experience. People tend to think of employability as going into industry. But equally so, we encourage looking at alternative careers.
“It’s about entrepreneurship, creating your own company, developing your own initiatives – social responsibilities.”
The university sees equal value in a student taking on a volunteering role as it does in a conventional graduate career.
The educational philosophy of experience providing opportunity not only anticipates the workplace, it takes into account Generation X and Y approaches to careers.
“We want to set them up for what they will live through,” says Professor Burd, “with the capability of adaptability.”
Work-integrated learning will play an important role.
Employers say they want work-ready graduates, but that is difficult to define. Work-ready is very much in the eye of the beholder.
The university translates work-ready as graduates with experience beyond just academic learning. Workintegrated learning provides this. Already, more than 90 per cent of the university’s programs include a workintegrated learning component.
“We are introducing a much wider range of opportunities for students to bring this experience to play,” says
Professor Parfitt. “Either by going out to the workplace or by creating learning environments within our academic programs that enable students to tackle the problems they will encounter in the workplace.”
The university’s innovation labs are a good example.
“The model we are exploring might have IT students join students from other disciplines to work on real-world problems for entrepreneurial businesses,” says Professor Parfitt. “They would also develop products.
“Instead of the confines of a workplace, our students would operate within the context of the learning environment at the university, but very much like our partners in the workplace.”