Higher education is growing rapidly across the world, including offshore campuses and online courses. I do find the numbers quite astounding but when I consider what’s happening overall I feel it’s a good thing that we have a more educated world population. In China this month a record 7.26 million will graduate from the country’s universities – more than seven times the number 15 years ago. In New Zealand total tertiary education enrolments reached 100,000 in 1975 and now are almost at 450,000. Small in comparison but growth nevertheless.
There can be a mismatch between graduate skills and job market needs especially in fast changing industry sectors but this doesn’t mean graduates can’t adapt. In fact isn’t this what we want our graduates to do – be responsive and curious to continue to learn way beyond their formal studies. We should be mindful that some countries are experiencing high levels of graduate unemployment and the 2013 Talent Shortage Survey by ManpowerGroup, a US-based human resources multinational, found acute problems in recruiting talent in many Asian countries but particularly in Japan and India.
So, in New Zealand how do our graduates get prepared for this competitive global environment? Some tips from a Guardian article earlier in the year suggest IT, Computer Science and Engineering degrees continue to be in demand – so lucky you if you are in this field! Don’t despair if not – but do keep up basic computer skills such as ExcelL and good layout of presentations and documents. Whatever your degree, good grades are helpful but not without the range of real life experiences or placements combined with extracurricular activities. Soon to be graduates should also be looking at smaller and high growth start-up businesses for their first jobs not just the big players. It is important for the applicant to have a good online presence and be looking at jobs posted directly on an organisation’s website or through social media. Passion, a focus on your strengths and tailored applications emphasising why you would particularly be good for that job and organisation are vital in securing that first job. Make use of your Careers Service throughout your time in tertiary education.