Bernie Callaghan: Employability of students has to be top of the agenda

For the first time there are more than a million workers aged 65 or older in the UK. The numbers of older employees are increasing fast, and many companies are saying that they prefer to retain experienced people rather than recruit and train new staff

Bernie Callaghan
Bernie Callaghan

For the first time there are more than a million workers aged 65 or older in the UK. The numbers of older employees are increasing fast, and many companies are saying that they prefer to retain experienced people rather than recruit and train new staff.

Apprentices over 50 tripled in the last two years, with some of the thousands of ‘silver scholars' – dreadful phrase - taking up a brand new career in their 60s and 70s.

I believe professional development and lifelong learning should carry on as long as people benefit from it, professionally and personally. 

Universities, including my faculty, offer short and part-time courses to increase skills, and a range of distance learning degrees and flexible courses that suit people returning to learning – and many younger people entering higher education for the first time too.

Many international students, particularly Chinese teenagers,  are studying overseas at younger ages than ever before, with parents financing the cost of under-18 year olds completing their schooling in countries such as the US and UK.

 MBA students are also getting younger, with many hoping to jumpstart a career following graduation.  Experience of management is an important consideration for potential MBA participants, although many business schools, including mine, include opportunities for work experience across many degree programmes to increase employability.

The breadth of ages, degree subjects and style of learning  at universities has never been greater. It means that we have to be fleet of foot, reacting effectively to the needs of people who want to combine work with studies, return after many years, or are keen to make fast headway in the first step of an ambitious career.

Online and distance learning courses are bound to rise in popularity to service changing needs. However, the importance of a great student experience, with lecturers whose support and advice is trusted, makes a huge difference to student results and to confidence.

Getting that blend just right, between effective use of digital technology and individual time for students with expert staff is paramount in planning the future of successful university education.

A good student experience also means being job-ready when you leave. Employability of students is top of the agenda for my faculty and many others. 

An outstanding student experience can help to create a brighter future and an exceptional employee, whatever age you are.

:: Professor Bernie Callaghan is dean of the faculty of business and law at the University of Sunderland

 
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