Employability: International internships and enterprise gyms

Employability: International internships and enterprise gyms

With the rapid globalisation of business and the advent of increasingly borderless careers, the graduates who will be most employable are those who demonstrate an understanding of the wider world around them and an ability to operate across cultures. Spending a period of time working in another country permits students to develop global employability skills and attributes which they will come to rely on in their future work.

The University of Dundee is embarking on a programme which will provide students with a valuable insight into the different working culture of one the world’s fastest emerging economies – India. This new programme will simultaneously provide students with a postgraduate qualification.

This new initiative has evolved from the University’s current Scottish Internship Graduate Certificate (SIGC) which offers students the opportunity to gain work experience while enhancing their employability skills. SIGC is an eight-month course and central to the course is a six-month quality internship with a Scottish employer.

International work experience

Support from the United Kingdom India Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI) – as part of its Work Placement Programme – has allowed the University to ‘internationalise’ its SIGC in the form of a new Global Internship Graduate Certificate (GIGCI) for India. This new academic programme will incorporate three to five-month internships in India, with career planning modules.

By participating in the programme, students will gain valuable hands-on experience within an Indian business whilst developing a real insight into the Indian business climate and culture. The University’s Indian partner, Sannam S4, who have expertise in helping overseas companies get established in the Indian marketplace, will identify work placements for the graduates across a wide range of industries and cities, and ensure students get the most from their experience professionally, culturally and socially.

Work experience does not, of itself, lead to the development of the various prerequisites (cognitive, social, practical, etc) for success in employment. Therefore, the University provides an intensive internship preparation and planning module, which also gives the students insights into the current UK graduate employment market.

Commitment to employability

The new Indian work placement programme initiative builds on the University’s long experience in enhancing the employability of its graduates. The University provides taught modules taken in parallel with academic courses and within the context of a Personal Development Plan (PDP). The PDP enables students to record their achievements aspirations and goals and also includes transcripts of degree passes, effective learning material, audit of skills, records of achievement, career direction and a CV builder.

The careers education element is delivered via a partnership with the department and the University Careers Service and complemented by two credit bearing modules, one in Career Planning and the other an Internship module. Evidence suggests that students who have completed these modules are 32% more likely to gain a ‘graduate track’ job after their degree.

Enterprise Gym

An ‘Enterprise Gym’ was created to help students from all disciplines to improve their self-reliance and employability through engaging with business enterprise and developing entrepreneurial skills. Key to this is the deep involvement and support of the business community helping to deliver learning that is fun, interactive and rewarding. Since it began, the Enterprise Gym has seen continued growth in student numbers, activities offered and accolades received. Its success in enhancing the employability of graduates is reflected in the fact that Dundee graduates have the highest average graduate starting salaries in Scotland (and 11th highest in the UK) – with more than 75 per cent of Dundee alumni going into graduate level jobs.

Performance indicators

It is clear that the employability ‘agenda’ is becoming increasingly more important for universities across the world. In the UK, the proportion of graduates obtaining jobs has long been a required performance indicator, and starting from this year, every university in the UK will be required to produce a Key Information Set (KIS) for each course it offers, which includes a variety of indicators: student satisfaction, details of teaching, learning and assessment methods, as well as employability data and average graduate salary information.

So the pressure is on and universities need to rise to the challenge.  We need to ensure employability and enterprise are threaded into the fabric of academic course work if we are to enable graduates to meet the economic and social challenges of 21st century

By Dr Brendan Barker, Head of International Development

University of Dundee; and Dr Lynsay Pickering, Careers Adviser/ GIGC(I) Co-ordinator, University of Dundee