From track to runway and take off for employability



Pathway operators are becoming the unlikely force behind new initiatives in the employability of international graduate students. It’s a phenomenon that deserves applause because it reflects the needs of students, but it begs the question of why universities are not doing the heavy lifting in an area critical to national competitiveness in the post-pandemic world.

Responses suggest that it may be time to come up with more radical solutions to career guidance and counseling services.

CareerAhead (Study Group), CareerFirst (INTO University Partnerships), Career Core (Kaplan), Career Accelerator (Shorelight) and Professional (Navitas) are all variations on the same theme. Some are more expensive and have more guarantees than others.

This is just the start and may simply represent an opportunistic response to student concerns in a time of economic uncertainty, rather than a long-term plan to support graduate employment. Serious, intelligent and strategic operators should incorporate robust longitudinal measurement of placements, career progression and benchmarking.

It’s no secret that international students are very focused on the return on investment they get from their spending on a degree abroad.

In 2016, Hobsons research indicated that four in ten people (40%) said they would go where there is a high demand for employees and 38% would choose their study destination based on the expected high earnings associated with it. to the industry for which their diploma prepares them. A 2021 QS study of students interested in studying in the United States showed that 54% said a high graduate employment rate was the most important metric they considered.

Failure to support graduate results

The decision of course providers to take the lead in this area may suggest that they have abandoned the idea that their academic partners are willing to provide what international students need or are able to do.

One of the great selling points of course providers has always been that upon arrival, students are “university students” with access to all of the host institution’s resources and facilities. Any reasonable person would think that this includes career counseling and guidance services which are the institution’s go-to resource for helping students find employment.

Another underlying dichotomy is that the implicit purpose of earning a degree is that it is a way to have more choice in the career one is pursuing. The need for private providers to charge additional sums to ensure appropriate levels of support reflects the broader truth that a degree is no longer sufficient.

Institutions would do well to consider how this will start to change the calculation of return on investment made by students when choosing a university.

Universities can also hope that just as they have ceded their brands to pathway providers and allow them to recruit students directly, they will not have to invest more in career counseling and guidance.

The industry’s low level of investment in graduate outcomes was exposed by Tribal / iGraduate research which found universities spend more than nine times as much on marketing than on career counseling and support.

This matches a collapse in the collection of data on graduate outcomes, meaning that decent comparative information from the UK’s Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) will not emerge until 2023 – six years since the last data. significant.

Even when the HESA figures arrive, they are very unlikely to provide any real information on the results of the 75% or more of international students who plan to return to their home country. While employability is to be a key battleground for countries, universities and pathway providers to prove their worth, there is a significant lack of data on which to build a reputation.

Alternative models of data collection are already being used by forward-thinking universities and show where individual universities can make a difference for their graduates.

Outsourcing of career services to meet needs

Leading industry commentators have argued that “career services must die” and this would seem increasingly true, given the lackluster support most are able or willing to provide international students.

There is a real need for institutions to rethink their performance criteria and even for governments with ambitious international student recruitment targets to examine how national reputations can be built or broken. It may even be a good time for higher education to shift its investment in study and career counseling to private providers who can provide both genuine support and accurate performance measurement.

It may sound drastic, but there is evidence that career progression has become a highly nuanced, technologically advanced and competitive endeavor, where a growing number of graduates need all the support they can get.

It is clear that the world of work has become just as oriented towards aggregators like ZipRecruiter, Indeed and others. Universities need good quality information to be able to orient their academic offerings to changing market needs, but there is no reason to expect them to be service experts for guarantee employment.

Outsourcing of non-core activities such as hosting, pre-graduation education and maintenance has come a long way and delivered substantial gains for the industry. Focusing on teaching, research and social impact is a lot to consider for most institutions and the pace of change required in ancillary services will always be secondary to these core activities. There is a certain symmetry in the providers of pathways to a university degree, also becoming the path to professional success.

This could lead to the tantalizing possibility that private providers also take over some aspect of alumni relationships with an emphasis on networking to create job prospects rather than viewing development and fundraising as the point of keeping in touch with alumni.

It is just a step away from building and recruiting training camps and refresher and development courses. With imagination, ingenuity, care and private investment, it could even become a radical reinvention of lifelong learning led by private providers to meet the skills demands of the ‘Great. -Worldwide Britain ”.

Louise Nicol is the founder of Asia Careers Group SDN BHD, and Alan Preece is an expert in global education, business transformation and operations management and runs the blogging site View from a bridge.


Norma A. Roth