Language Matters Workshop, 12 June 2018, Manchester

From Sian Furlong-Davies, Director of the Careers Service, Aberystwyth University


Opening remarks by Sandy Grom of the Department of DCMS

Noted the two key elements of the Shadbolt Review were:

  • Need for increased careers advice for Undergraduates so that they recognise the opportunities on offer to them and take full advantage of the chance to develop ‘soft skills’
  • Importance of working on commonality in language that is used across all sectors to make things clearer to all concerned

Result of this has been the Language Matters project to develop experiences via collaboration that will meet industry needs and make university courses more relevant.

Opening comments by Bob Clift of the Tech Partnership

Many years ago employers got together to define the perfect graduate, who would have the following skill set: 25% in equal measure of technical skills, project management and interpersonal skills.  In a recent review of this with a range of employers the discussion focused entirely on interpersonal skills for over 20 minutes.  Belief was that all other elements could be taught to new recruits provided they had the interpersonal skills as a starting point.

University Approach, provided by Liz Gorb of MMU

Focused on how successful the Degree Apprenticeships have been at MMU and the use of Digital & Technical Solutions as a job/course title rather than Computer Science has resulted in greater diversity (percentage of females on the Degree Apprenticeship is higher than on most full-time degrees).  No reference was made to how full-time degrees can be adapted to be more inclusive and match industry needs.

Industry Approach provided by Lynne Makinson-Walsh of Dreamr and Ken Barker of NHS Digital

Lynne – challenge is to get people who can talk to clients.  Technical skills obviously useful but prefer to have people who can “hit the ground running” and who are self-aware.  Creativity is essential to make a good programmer.  To solve their recruitment issues they have softened their job specifications, noting clearly that all should apply even if they don’t meet all the criteria noted.  They look for passion and real interest.

Ken – curiosity and resilience are the main abilities they look for in recruits.  As an organisation they have to consider what kind of people do (and will) they need in order to progress, as opposed to what skills do (will) they need.

 Overall comments

  • There was not much new information presented. The university focus just on degree apprenticeships didn’t address making an active difference across the bulk activity of academia or how to engage employers in influencing the majority of the curriculum.
  • A question was raised as to who were the influencers – parents, academics, careers staff, peers? Suggestion that using different media to get the message across as to what digital really means might have more impact on getting young people interested in this as a career area rather than expecting them to come and talk to employers in more conventional ways – fairs, events etc.  Changing language was all well and good provided the Graduate Outcomes Survey job coding system took this into account and was able to accurately reflect graduate/professional level careers from a modern perspective, as opposed to difficulties with the SOC codes in current use.
  • Impact of using LEO data in the TEF is problematic with the changing scenario of recognising educational outcomes are varied and qualitative; its specific focus on salaries does not allow for a broader range of educational outcomes to be recognised (this comment made in response to Bob’s closing remarks noting graduates need to consider culture and ethos of companies too and find the right fit in terms of that as well as job roles).