More than 25,000 students graduated with a Bachelor’s degree last year. Most then look for a job, but few realise that employers increasingly want more than straight-A grades.

In some cases, an academically excellent student will be passed over if an employer thinks they don’t have the “C-skills” — communication, creativity, curiosity, collaboration, co-operation and caring within a sense of community.

We asked some of Auckland’s top employers — including banks, law firms, primary industry leaders and local government — to find out what they want in a graduate.

In one case, a national recruitment adviser at a top accounting firm confirmed that grades are not the only thing employers are looking for. “We are looking for confidence, communication skills. Are they well rounded? Have they had community and extra-curricular involvement?”

Employers want to know whether a candidate can relate to other people and their clients. They are looking for evidence of how students used their part-time work to demonstrate trust, and develop responsibility and initiative. They are keen to know how students work in a team and individually, about their ability to share what they learned during their studies, and how they can use project work to identify problems and implement solutions. Life skills and experiences — examples of how students have learned from being out of their comfort zones — also rate highly.

At our university, we’re finding ways to ensure the “C-skills” of education are addressed. We provide local and international internships, work placements, real-life business challenges and mentoring programmes. Eighty per cent of our Bachelor graduates have real work experience as part of their course.

We have collaborative learning spaces. These range from informal spaces for group learning, to a collection of laboratories and programmes where students, researchers and experts from a range of industries can come together.

The annual Shadow a Leader programme, run by Auckland University of Technology’s faculty of business and law, sees 75 CEOs and leaders from diverse organisations host an AUT student plus a school student for a day to expose them to the life of a leader.

Events such as the Match Ready Employability Workshops have been established to prepare students for paid internships covering topics such as human interaction, personal branding, psychometrics and networking with industry that will ultimately help them into fulltime employment.

The other question universities grapple with is what jobs will actually look like in five or 10 years’ time and beyond. We can map trends but the exact answers are elusive. Rapid digital evolution, shifting global fortunes and social change and the uncertainty about the shape of jobs in the future makes the “C-skills” all the more important.

So where does that leave us as higher education providers and parents when giving guidance to those embarking on study? My advice to students is simple — follow your passion.

By identifying what it is that keeps you wondering and wanting to learn, undertaking to discover as much as you can in this and related fields, and by making sure you engage successfully with people and the world around you — you will be well placed for whatever opportunities present themselves.

Source: The New Zealand Herald

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