25 September 2000 Producing the 'value added' graduate with market edge
Liaison Adviser, take time out to smile for the camera.
Lincoln works hard to set its students on appropriate employment paths and a raft of new initiatives in the careers advice and work experience areas has transformed the University's job related services.
"Through a wide range of programmes we're setting out to make sure our graduates are as 'marketable' as possible when they leave us and that they have a real edge out there in the employment world," says the University's newly appointed Employment Liaison Adviser, Michelle Ash.
"In today's terminology we see ourselves as 'adding value' to the tertiary education we provide by offering career related services along the whole pathway to graduation, either with an undergraduate degree or diploma or graduate qualification.
"For some that 'added value' will come through the compulsory practical work requirements which are part and parcel of their degree or diploma programmes. For others it's the professional studies paper which is now a requirement for completion of the recreation management degree, and for still others there's the Employment Internship Scheme offering paid work experience over summer.
"Furthermore, next year we are introducing a subject which will give Lincoln students’ academic credit from work experience. Called Work Integrated Learning, it's for postgraduates enrolled in some of the Graduate Diplomas and it will give them a 12-week, one semester, industry placement as part of their course programme."
In some subject areas a degree is no longer a guaranteed passport across the divide between university and fulltime work.
Transforming a hard-won university degree into an actual job in the right field can be a formidable task for some graduates these days. For many the job market is competitive, high tech and filled with employers who want work ready, industry-savvy graduates.
Add to this the pressure of having a sizeable student loan to clear and job hunting becomes something to think about seriously well before the graduation ceremony.
To improve the odds for their graduates, Lincoln is focused on building bridges between the University and industry – brokering partnerships and alliances between academia and the business and professional world.
In consultation with employers Lincoln University has broadened its work experience options and there is now a variety of different programmes which offer both employers and students significant benefits.
"We want students/graduates to start thinking about what they want to be doing and where they would like to be working even before they graduate, so we can help them while they are still studying," says Michelle.
She says universities should be providing good solid information and assistance to students wanting help.
"They are paying for their education and I think that they rightly have an expectation of assistance in how to go about making their degree work for them."
At Lincoln, in addition to individual counselling, workshops are run to help students prepare CVs and sharpen their marketing and interview skills. Many employers are invited on campus each year to present to students and leave a range of resource and promotional material about their company. They can also advertise vacancies and use university facilities to interview prospective candidates.
An Employment Expo is also held annually which gives students the chance to talk to many employers and in turn employers can talk about their graduate programmes and spot potential candidates.
Many of Lincoln's degrees and diplomas combine academic study with practical work experience. This has been and continues to be one of the major strengths of many Lincoln qualifications.
Employers really value the breadth and depth of knowledge that this practical work experience provides, and consistently rate this component of Lincoln University's courses highly.
Practical work is normally full-time over the summer vacation or occasionally part-time outside the working hours of the University. Work may be paid or voluntary.
A new approach to practical work has been taken by the University for those students studying towards the Bachelor of Recreation Management, formerly the Bachelor of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management.
Students of this degree must undertake a professional studies paper that is designed to assist them to make the most of their practical work experience.
The degree has five majors to choose from – sport, parks, community recreation, tourism and outdoor leadership.
"If students choose to do practical work experience in their area of specialisation, this experience can be very helpful in confirming that they are on the right career track," says Alison Kuiper, lecturer in the Human Sciences Division.
Students have a substantial number of options to choose from. This year alone the Auckland Regional Council listed 22 vacancies in its parks division with Lincoln. Students have taken up research positions observing the effect of tourism on dolphins in the South Island. New Zealand Cricket and Canterbury Cricket are both providing work assisting in the planning and running of major national and regional competitions. The Christchurch Yacht Club will take on students to run its summer coaching programme. And there are students involved in developing a mentoring programme with truancy services.
As part of Lincoln's proactive approach Michelle Ash is co-ordinating the Employment Internship Scheme, a new initiative to get students relevant work experience over summer.
The scheme targets degree courses in Commerce and Management, Applied Computing, Resource Studies and Social Sciences. These degrees have no compulsory practical work component.
The internships are awarded to students who have attained good grades and can demonstrate a commitment to a particular vocational area. The students are involved in a personal development programme throughout the teaching year and in return participating employers offer students paid employment during the summer vacation.
Employers in return benefit from a motivated and work ready employment pool, effective matching between students and employers and a reduction in their recruitment costs.
"Focusing on these courses means we can help students who might be interested in human resources or social work. However because they have little industry contact as part of their degree it is harder for them to get relevant paid positions as holiday jobs", says Michelle.
"There is no doubt that students are grateful for help in this area. Many are so busy with their studies that they don't realise how hard it is to get a job in the current environment until they actually start looking for one."
While the students cannot add credits to their degree programme for the internship scheme they will be paid for the jobs they do.
Next year a further initiative aimed at enhancing employability will give Lincoln graduates academic credits as well as work experience.
Work Integrated Learning is for postgraduates enrolled in the Graduate Diplomas of Applied Science, Recreation Management, Sport Management and Applied Computing.
Work Integrated Learning gives graduates a 12-week, one semester, industry placement as part of their graduate diploma programme.
Kathryn Beresford, Work Integrated Learning Manager at Lincoln says the placements will involve research, marketing or analysis work and earn graduates credits equivalent to four units of study.
For example, the initiative could give a Bachelor of Science graduate a period researching factors involved in lean sheep meat production for a research institute, while a Bachelor of Applied Computing graduate may develop a training manual for a computer software company.
"It allows students to hit the ground running when they are ready to get a job," says Kathryn.
"Graduates make good contacts, they gain an extra qualification and employers benefit from reduced training costs.”
Employers also benefit from getting applied research done by skilled graduates, which they may not otherwise be able to afford.
Joe Prachuabmoh is an applied science graduate and can vouch for the value of having solid industry experience.
Mr Prachuabmoh completed a project for The Press newspaper in Christchurch as part of his Master of Applied Science degree.
He spent 15 months creating a computer programme to enable staff to electronically choose a design for the paper around the editorial and advertising requirements of each issue. This work necessitated coming up with various size sections, a certain number of pages and colour pages. The set up required is different for every issue.
Up until his programme, the only system available to staff was to choose a set-up from a book of ‘possible solutions’ that had been collected manually over the years.
Mr Prachuabmoh says the exposure to an industry environment taught him that different people have different views about solving problems and you can't just come at a problem from a solely academic point of view.
Providing graduates that will be sought after by employers is dependent on knowing what employers want at any given time. In the world of commerce this can be somewhat of a moveable feast.
The Director of Lincoln University's Commerce Division, Dr Patrick Aldwell, says responding to industry needs is vital. His division's move to meet industry demand for graduates in Supply Chain Management is a recent example of how Lincoln is responding to business trends as they happen.
In a nutshell, supply chain management is the integration of the business process from the point of view of the end user (the market) through to the original resource supplier. This provides products, services and information that add value to the customers.
"Industry is crying out for people in this field. You only have to look at the situations vacant columns," says Dr Aldwell.
As a way of managing business and resources it has been around forever, says senior lecturer Dr Diane Mollenkopf, who teaches supply chain management at Lincoln, but she says the concept of supply chain management is now gaining widespread recognition as a new way of doing and improving business.
To meet the demand Lincoln is leading the way in conducting research and teaching a new generation of experts in supply chain management.
Dr Mollenkopf says students will soon be able to major in the study of this particular field. Staff have formed a group called the ‘Supply Chain Centre’ which is promoting Lincoln as a focus for expertise in this area.
"We will be out there promoting ourselves and looking at getting good practical work for our students to participate in," she said.
Finding out what industry wants, what the trends are, and preparing students who can meet those needs is part of Lincoln's drive to have some of the most work ready graduates in the country.
Ian Collins, Journalist, Lincoln University, Canterbury, New Zealand
KeywordsgraduatesWork Intergrated Learning