Employability Challenges for Returning Graduates: Global Perspectives and Future-Ready Strategies

In an era dominated by technological advancements, shifting geopolitical landscapes, and a growing emphasis on sustainability, the employability landscape is undergoing a profound transformation. This article explores the challenges and opportunities facing returning graduates, particularly those from India, and delves into the key trends shaping the global employment scenario.

Trends Shaping the Employment Landscape

Organisations worldwide are gearing up for significant changes in the next five years, with over 85% citing increased technology adoption and expanded digital access as major influencers. The broader application of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) standards is also expected to play a pivotal role. Concurrently, macroeconomic factors like the rising cost of living and slow economic growth are influencing employment trends.

Technology Driven Job Roles

The fastest growing job roles are closely tied to technology, digitalisation, and sustainability. AI and Machine Learning Specialists, Sustainability Specialists, and roles in Renewable Energy Engineering are experiencing rapid growth. Conversely, technology related roles like clerical and secretarial positions, including Bank Tellers and Data Entry Clerks, are on the decline.

Challenges Faced by Returning Graduates

Returning Indian graduates, especially those from non-STEM backgrounds and lower ranking institutes, face challenges in the UK and US job markets due to economic slowdowns. Despite a surge in the number of Indian students studying abroad, the demand for tier 2 and 3 colleges has risen significantly.

Financial Pressure and Housing Affordability

The accumulation of high student debt, exceeding £225.85 billion, adds financial pressure, impacting housing affordability, especially considering rising rental prices.

Strategies for Enhancing Employability

To address employability challenges, students are advised to choose high ranking universities with proven placement records. This is particularly crucial in the competitive job market in India, where societal pressure for lucrative jobs often
accompanies the investment in overseas education.

Showcasing Advanced Skills

Returning students bring back advanced skills and knowledge, making them attractive to employers. Their adaptability, independence, and exposure to diverse cultures enhance their global employability. The rigorous and research oriented nature of foreign education equips students with sought after soft skills.

Role of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in India

In India, HEIs actively promote employability through dedicated placement cells. These cells engage with industry representatives, organise training sessions, and negotiate hiring agreements. Institutes like the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) boast a 100% placement rate, showcasing consistent increases in average salaries.

Enhancing UK University Support for Employability

UK universities can enhance support for students’ employability by fostering relationships with Indian and British companies. Collaborations with the industry can be facilitated through placement cells, improving students’ chances of securing employment post graduation. Awareness campaigns about UK universities and practical skills acquired through courses may bridge the gap with Indian employers.

Additionally, guidance on navigating the entry level employee visa process can encourage local companies to hire international students.

Expectations from Graduates

Employers expect graduates to possess an open minded and culturally appreciative mindset, enhancing their ability to collaborate, share ideas, and support team goals. Studying abroad is anticipated to improve language and communication skills, highly valued by Indian employers. Graduates with international exposure tend to develop adaptability, confidence, and a well rounded personality, along with the capacity to build a global network.

Challenges in the UK Job Market and Transition Support

Returning graduates face challenges in the UK job market, with difficulties finding employment in their field, particularly for international students due to visa restrictions. As of June 2022, only 7% of international graduates secured jobs with UK employers. High student debt, exceeding £225.85 billion, adds financial pressure, impacting housing affordability, exacerbated by rising rental prices.

University and Industry Support

Universities and industry can aid the academic-to-workplace transition by offering career counselling, practical work experiences, and fostering industry partnerships. Teaching transferable skills like communication and teamwork is crucial for graduates to navigate the evolving job market successfully.

Developing Skills for the 21st Century: A Global Perspective

Graduates must acquire academic skills (critical thinking, problem solving, communication), subject specific knowledge, and transferable skills (teamwork, leadership, time management), to meet employment expectations. Indian universities play a pivotal role in preparing graduates by offering diverse courses aligned with career goals, focusing on practical skills, and providing internships and apprenticeships.

Employability Skills Valued by Employers

Employers value communication, teamwork, flexibility, problem solving, and interpersonal skills. The Asia-Pacific region faces notable skills gaps in resilience, creativity, leadership, and interpersonal skills. The World Economic Forum’s 2023 report emphasises the need to reevaluate employability skills and upskilling due to an anticipated net loss of 14 million jobs by 2027.

Support for Alumni Upskilling and Innovative Thinking

Universities support alumni upskilling through continuing education courses, access to online resources, sharing resources, and networks like alumni associations. Examples include the University of Oxford’s online courses and the University of Derby Buxton’s “Learning Laboratories.”

Innovative Thinking About Business Practices

Universities foster innovative thinking about business practices, including sustainability goals, by hosting workshops and seminars, creating alumni networks, and addressing climate change concerns. A survey of 10,000 Gen Z Indian students reveals a significant focus on sustainability.

Conclusion

Returning graduates face a dynamic employment landscape influenced by technology, sustainability, and global shifts. Challenges include navigating the competitive job market, financial pressures, and societal expectations. However, strategic university initiatives, industry collaborations, and the cultivation of 21st century skills contribute to enhanced employability. As graduates embark on their professional journeys, a global perspective, adaptability, and continuous upskilling are vital for success in the evolving employment landscape.