Is your university really preparing you to be career-ready?

Are graduates career-ready?

With the mortarboard on your head and graduation scroll in your hand, you feel all prepped for the working world and ready to step foot into the job you studied four years for.

Are you really ready for the real world?

Does your university really prepare you for your career? How much of what you studied in class will be used in your everyday work? Although qualification is a ticket to enter the workforce in a competitive society like now, many people have shared that they do not actually use what they studied in their everyday work. A survey done by Milkround, a job search platform widely used by graduates in the UK, showed that only 13% of graduates feel that their education prepared them for the specific job functions required in their workplace. Memorizing theories and models, drawing sketches, and doing calculations, these theoretical practices done in your classroom appear to be insufficient to fill the gap between what you know and what your employer wants. Therefore it all boils down to one question, are our university graduates career-ready?

What are companies looking for?

Industry-relevant and job-specific skillsets

If you are a fresh graduate getting your first job, you will often need to undergo a series of trainings, either formal or informal, for you to familiarize yourself with the operation of the company and the specific industry. It may take months, or even years, for you to fully understand the big picture of the company and master the specific skills required in this field. Take engineering for example, graduating from an engineering degree does give you the overall technical skills of an engineer, but the job-specific skillsets required to work in the telecommunication industry and the automotive industry can be quite different. You may have the theory and concept of the engineering system at the back of your head, but you have no knowledge on how to operate the machine or fix any bug. Hence, companies often opt to hire candidates who have relevant prior experience as training them will be much easier, faster, and cost effective.

Polished soft skills in a professional setting

Having the best technical skills is not sufficient. Employers often look at your soft skills to determine if you will be a positive addition to their team. Soft skills like problem solving, communication, conflict resolution, and teamwork are crucial in your workplace. While you also learn these skills at school, it can be a different ball game altogether when comes to a professional setting. Learning how to balance between maintaining work ethics, getting the job done, and having a good working relationship with your colleagues is a big lesson. Unfortunately, the lack of exposure to professional work setting leaves most fresh graduates unpolished in this area.

Dual Vocational Training promotes on the job training

Dual Vocational Training- a (possibly better) alternative to university

Up to this point, you would have already figured out that early exposure to the workplace and on-the-job training will be able to equip you with the skills that employers are looking for. This is exactly what the Dual Vocational Training (DVT) Program aims to achieve– to help you be career-ready upon graduation. 

DVT is a German education model where students start to have job exposure and hands-on training right after high school. Instead of choosing between working or furthering your studies, DVT strikes a balance with their model of 75% on-the-job
training with a company and 25% theoretical training with a vocational school. This program prepares you to be just the way the company wants you to be, equipping you with job-specific and industry-relevant skill sets.

The program emphasizes on practical training and solving real life on-the-job
problems, something the universities cannot provide. With your training attached to a company, you will be constantly exposed to the latest industry updates and get your hands on state-of-the-art equipment and technologies. This gives you the opportunity to really put knowledge into practice rather than mere memorization and hypothetical scenarios.

The DVT program is a standardized curriculum recognized across the whole of Germany and many other EU countries. Upon completion of the program, you can choose to stay at your training company or explore other companies or industries of your choice. Not only can you gain practical job experience and academic qualification concurrently, you will also receive an allowance during your training. Now it
makes sense why about 50% of German school leavers choose to go for the DVT program instead of pursuing an academic program in a university. This model has gained popularity around the world and many countries have adopted it to cater for vocational courses, including engineering, software, and nursing.

Finding what suits you best

Now, are universities really losing their relevance in this modern society? Of course not. Attending university does prepare you for the real world in many other areas. The experience gained during university molds you to be a confident individual and teaches you skills such as time management to handle multiple deadlines, social skills to work with others for group assignments, research skills for writing a comprehensive research paper, and many more. As much as it may not prepare students to be career-ready due to its theoretical approach, its benefits cannot be denied. Many universities are moving towards a more hands-on approach by offering opportunities of gap year for students to gain early exposure in the workforce, or making it mandatory for students to have at least one semester of hands-on internship experience as part of the program. The key for you is to find out which pathway best suits your desired course and your learning style, and embrace the best of the pathway you choose, either
the traditional university or the dual vocational training program.