Universities re-model degrees to get graduates ready for work

In an effort to develop the skills of graduates in terms of employability and work-readiness, a number of universities are exploring new models for their undergraduate degrees.

This year, Charles Sturt University has turned the model on its head, introducing an engineering degree based on placements in industry and run from the Business Faculty.

The placement of the engineering degree in the Business Faculty is very much intentional. The whole degree consists of five placements for the students, all undertaken in industry except the first, which involves a challenge project undertaken at the university.

The release of the Australian Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda squarely focused the need for improved and widespread business-university collaboration if Australia is to be innovative, and benefit from innovation, into the future. Better collaboration goes to the heart of research and development and commercialisation.

But the Agenda has also brought into focus the concerns already being discussed around the work readiness and employability of university graduates. Ai Group members have raised this as an issue for some time, with our member survey in 2014 indicating the main areas of dissatisfaction related to graduates’ self-management, problem solving, initiative and teamwork.

Business-university collaboration best begins when integrating work into undergraduates’ learning. Australia’s universities are keenly aware of this and there are many innovative new models being implemented that help universities produce the graduates that industry needs.

In another effective program, the Monash Industry Team Initiative forms multi-disciplinary teams of undergraduate students that are embedded in Australian and global industry partners for twelve weeks on projects based on the needs of the business.

The key is that students are exposed to work, and Ai Group has been involved with a number of projects between industry and universities to bring about collaboration and integration into their learning.

We are also developing guides for involvement by employers with undergraduates through placements, mentoring, and small projects, which can help with business objectives.

As planning at universities continues to integrate work into learning, our members’ views on the following questions would be welcomed:

  • Just as connectivity is the common thread for jobs of the future, are new ways of connectivity and communicating the way forward for universities and business?
  • How will industry have the capacity to take on larger numbers of students?
  • How do company business models need to change if they are to help create the human capital pipeline they need for success?
  • If learning needs to be more relevant and adaptable to change, should more universities get involved in companies and more companies involved in universities?

To have your say, please add your comment below or contact Anne Younger, Ai Group’s General Manager, Education and Training, Tel: (03) 9867 0172.

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Anne Younger
Anne joined Ai Group as an economist and is currently our General Manager, Education and Training. She is responsible for policy development and major projects addressing members’ education and training issues. Anne previously managed Ai Group's national team of Enterprise Connect Business Advisers charged with helping SMEs to improve productivity. Holding a Master of Education (Educational Leadership and Management) and a Bachelor of Economics, Anne worked for over 25 years in the VET sector in policy, research, training and quality management roles before joining Ai Group. She is a Board member of Innovation and Business Skills Australia (IBSA).

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