Exeter's Global Employability Programme
The expression 'global skills' is bandied about a lot amongst students, universities and employers, but what does it actually mean? We hear from Susannah Day, Global Employability Consultant at Exeter University, about the work the programme is doing with year abroad students to help them to identify and make the most of their linguistic and intercultural know-how.
1. What is the Global Employability programme?
The Global Employability programme complements existing work placement modules by enabling students to work internationally. My team manages the Erasmus + traineeships for the University as well as assisting Colleges with other international work placements, internships and international graduate jobs. We help over 200 students a year find work placements and graduate jobs in Europe, South America, Singapore, South Korea and the USA.
2. Can you give some examples of 'global skills'?
There are many global skills, these are often intangible and very, very hard to appreciate until you’ve been on placement and returned! The Erasmus Impact study identifies key transferable skills such as problem solving, intercultural tolerance, adaptability and self-confidence. Here at Exeter we have identified a Global Skill Set which includes core skills such as initiative, independence and confidence along with cultural dexterity –a global mindset, willingness to learn and adapt to a different culture and more tolerance and intercultural understanding. These are all key skills in demand from employers they are just not getting from UK graduates at the moment!
3. What differences have you noticed in the students you've worked with?
See above! The fourth years come back as entirely different people – in a good way. Without fail they are all much more open to working overseas again. Most of the fourth year returners that come to me want to either go back to the country they worked/studied in or are ready to go further afield, including Asia. They have a totally different mindset; the world isn’t a scary place but one big resource that needs to be explored! It’s this attitude and openness that employers are looking for and ensures our graduates become global citizens. Once the students can grasp that and translate it in to their CVs they have immediately got an advantage over other graduates. There is a lot of research around Global Citizenship and the long term benefits this will have to international relations.
4. Can you give a specific example of a student success story?
I think the person I am most proud of is our student who is undertaking her professional training year in South Korea. English is not her first language, she has a multicultural background, she didn’t speak a word of Korean yet has flown out to Seoul independently. In her own words:
“Having worked abroad it shows that I can work with other people that have a different cultural background to me, and that I can adapt to this new country and new culture well…. As a result I might have more opportunities to pursue a career abroad than other people who do not have this experience.”
I’ve also got another student not speaking a word of German out with a big multinational organisation in Germany for a whole year in their marketing department. Another student is working for an independent Colombian music company. I’ve got people teaching on independently sourced placements in South America – I am proud of them all and really looking forward to seeing them when they get back next year!
5. Have you spoken to any employers about the value of' global skills'? What have they said?
We’re really proud to be a top 10 UK University here at Exeter. Our graduates will always have the benefit of a great degree behind them and this does mean that our students are in demand by top employers. The Global Employability website has quotes from PwC as well as the BritishCouncil on the benefits of working internationally. In addition we have employers from top firms that come back to us year after year after year because the calibre of our students is so good.
One of my contacts from Bosch in Singapore emailed recently to say “…the outstanding performance of (the student's) work thus far has convinced us that the undergrads/graduates from University of Exeter are of high calibre”
6. Do you have any advice for other universities interested in setting up a similar programme?
The value of international work experience cannot be understated. Even if, at the moment, there aren’t the resources to implement a whole Erasmus+ programme or there isn’t an option to integrate international work placements into your degrees, facilitating and enabling students to undertake summer internships overseas or conducting research for their dissertations internationally is achievable and manageable. I have a very small team here and as the only full time member of staff in the Global Employability team I do know how hard it is to keep on top of everything, but if you can manage it, it’s incredibly rewarding!
Please order our free Global Graduates postcard pack for your school/university so we can help you promote international opportunities and languages to your students. You can also see the list of universities we cover on the site so far, with articles and answers written by their students. For more information, please contact us!