Welsh business and higher education lead the way in partnership working

Welsh business and higher education lead the way in partnership working

Launched this week is the first ever partnership agreement, between higher education and the Welsh business community, aimed at ensuring graduates who study in Wales are the most innovative and employable workers in the UK.

Key organisations from across the HE sector, from Higher Education Wales (HEW), Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW), and NUS Wales, have entered into partnership with CBI Wales to increase further the employability levels of graduates from universities in Wales. Working hand in hand with businesses and students, they will increase opportunities for graduate work placements, employer-approved courses, along with embedding employability skills in courses.

Hitting the ground running, partners – having had discussions with key Welsh businesses – have published a draft action plan already committing them to work together in order to:

o   increase the number of high-level work placements, including providing opportunities through schemes such as GO Wales, Jobs Growth Wales and for science undergraduates via Techniquest’s schools outreach programme

o   increase the availability of courses in higher education endorsed by employers through engagement with skills and business representative bodies during curriculum development; and

o   make available more employability and entrepreneurship modules and opportunities for students in universities.

Professor Phil Gummett, Chief Executive of HEFCW, said: “We are coming together on Tuesday to present this significant agreement endorsed by bodies representing universities, students and businesses in Wales. In this climate of economic uncertainty, we are committed to working together to deliver strong, work-ready graduates while boosting the availability and range of graduate-level jobs. Furthermore, better and higher skills levels are crucial to increasing Wales’ productivity. We look forward to working on new ideas as well as building upon the success of existing schemes such as our flagship graduate employment programme, GO Wales.”

Commenting on the Skills and Employability for Wales Agreement, Amanda Wilkinson, Director of Higher Education Wales, added: “Students expect good quality high level jobs when they graduate. Through working hand in glove with CBI Wales, NUS Wales, and HEFCW, in implementing this action plan, we will be developing further the range of employment skills open to all of our graduates across the Welsh HE sector. Crucially Welsh employers will have access to some of the most innovative graduates in any part of the UK.”

Emma Watkins, Director of CBI Wales, said: These are challenging times for graduates searching for a job after university. While a university degree can be an excellent foundation for a graduate’s career, employers look more positively on students who have also developed a range of practical skills and knowledge – of the employability skills so valued by businesses.

“This landmark partnership bringing together employers, higher education and students themselves will go some way to addressing the challenge of developing employability skills. Business needs to play its part in communicating skills needs, expanding opportunities for students and working with universities to help them deliver graduates with the right mix of skills. That is why the CBI is pleased to sign up to this agreement, and we look forward to working closely with our partners to deliver the employability skills for the graduates of today and for the jobs of tomorrow.”

Luke Young, President of NUS Wales, said: “Wales is full of talent and potential but these are clearly tough times for recent graduates looking for employment. As such it is only right that the education and business sectors work together with the aim of increasing opportunities and prospects. This benefits the individual, the economy, and wider society. NUS Wales is very pleased to be part of this partnership and we look forward to making a positive impact in this area.”

Deputy Minister for Skills, Jeff Cuthbert, said: “Students expect good quality graduate level jobs when they graduate and our employers need innovative, graduates with the necessary skills to help them compete in a global economy. This framework will help us ensure that happens in Wales and it will also make a strong contribution towards the Welsh Government’s delivery of economic policies. I am very encouraged to see such a wide range of partners working together to drive forward this framework.”