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'Colleges must develop an employability mindset to help students find jobs'

Simon Cusworth, head of careers and employability at Croydon College, writes:

Croydon has one of the highest youth unemployment rates in London, which is why it's more important than ever to get to work finding young people a job.

This week, more than 140 leading organisations will gather at Croydon College to help students in their search for employment.

The employability event aims to keep students one step ahead in the jobs market, showcasing their skills as well as giving them the chance for future work experience and jobs.

It's just one of many such events which take place in colleges up and down the country in a bid to give young people the best possible chance of getting a job while at the same time giving employers the chance to explain about their organisation and the types of careers available as well as the qualifications, skills and experiences they are looking for.  

These days if young people are to succeed in the workplace they need bankable skills like a positive approach, the ability to use numbers and language, the ability to solve problems, work in a team, communicate and understand business needs.

Without these skills the UK will struggle to maintain its position as a global economic force, but we are not as good at giving our young people these skills as our international competitors which means we face a crucial question - what more can we do to help our future workforce develop such skills?

Without doubt schools, colleges and universities play a vital part in answering that question. We can, for instance, adapt our curriculum to more meet the needs of employers and engage with them more so that we know absolutely what they need from our students.

At the same time we can help job-seeking students by equipping them with the skills industry demands.

At Croydon College for instance, we adhere to a core principle that all learners should have equal access to careers and employability support services to make informed choices.

A very proactive approach allows us to build and develop students employability skills; staying on a par with our international competitors means we need to offer the widest possible range of support.

So at Croydon there is an employability centre, we call it the Hub, with up-to-the-minute resources and information as well as expert staff on hand to help students with their choices, plans and decision making.

Help with interview skills and CV writing goes hand in hand with opportunities to meet and engage with employers through work experience, as well as enjoy volunteering and industry talks by visiting specialists. We also support employers with their recruitment campaigns and encourage our learners to take up part-time paid employment alongside their studies

Staff all undertake industry placement days helping their knowledge of industry, while across the college, all students have employability related learning embedded within the curriculum studies including support for English, maths and IT skills.

Such an all around, adaptable system is needed across the country if we are to equip young people with the skills needed to get a job in the 21st century.

We believe this mixed economy, multi-disciplinary approach to employability is making a real difference to the future prospects of our learners.

What's more, working effectively with employers has given them a much greater understanding of the qualification pathways studied by our learners as well as developing an insight into the social and employability skills being developed in our students.

This has led many employers to work closely with us, developing students' learning to support their future needs.

All this means there has been a huge increase in the uptake of employability related learning by students; a much greater 'buy-in' from all staff and a marked increase in the number of employers actively engaging with the college.

In short, Croydon has developed an employability mindset, delivering high quality employability services throughout the college - something surely worth working on for the future?

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