Universities UK published this month a report on employer engagement with postgraduate students in the UK, putting a specific focus on Masters students. The study is complemented by a set of recommendations as to how to strengthen the relationship between students and employers and thus enhance the employability of this student group.
The main findings show that employers value specific skills and practical, work-related experiences during Masters programmes, notably traineeships and work placements. The profile (age, subject and mode of study) of postgraduate students varies a lot, and so do the reasons for employers to hire (or not) postgraduates. Some recruiters avoid this student group for fear they would be too demanding as employees in terms of salary and the opportunities for promotion. Although employers often do not initially make a differentiation between Bachelor and Masters students in recruitment, the latter group have higher rates of employment as it appears that their competences and knowledge are better suited for positions in certain fields, particularly in STEM subjects.
Even though the findings suggest that university-business collaboration is good, it is recommended in the report that universities and graduates should work more on increasing the visibility of Masters programmes and on promoting their added value to employers. Establishing and maintaining successful relationships between universities and employers proves to be quite a long and often challenging process, requiring persistence and commitment. Some employers are not interested to jump into this venture; others are willing but lack resources. Furthermore, working with alumni in order to track their employability and career paths is a strategy that many universities still lack. But a simple conclusion coming from the several good practice examples in the report is that this cooperation is always rewarding and helpful to graduates, and equally so to universities to articulate the value of their work and to employers to recruit skilled and competent people.