Handshake and Kingston University talk employability and the role of skills in graduate recruitment at The Future of Work & Skills Conference 2022

September 20, 2022

On Wednesday 14th September, Handshake and Kingston University teamed up to discuss all things employability at Northumbria University’s Future of Work and Skills conference.

Charles Hardy, University Partnerships Lead, at Handshake and Ali Orr, Head of Graduate Outcomes and Employability, from Kingston University, explored the future skills needed for the UK to remain globally competitive, what employers are looking for and how universities can help prepare graduates for their future careers.

The informative session drew on data from Handshake’s Graduate Employer Priorities Report. The research revealed cause for optimism, with around half of organisations that employ students and graduates saying that they intend to increase the amount of hires they make in the next 12 months.

But challenges remain in terms of bridging the gap to employment, as most employers (59%) think graduate candidates have been prevented from gaining enough skills and work experience after the disruption of the past two years. The legacy impact of the pandemic also comes across in the findings from Handshake’s Careers2032: The Conclusion report, which found students are experiencing a lack of confidence and are less likely to engage with the Career Services teams after Covid.

Against this backdrop, the session looked at the potential impact of this stronger emphasis on early career skills and the tools universities can draw on to help their students meet expectations.

Ali Orr began by showcasing the proactive approach Kingston University is taking to identify desirable skills, based on data from the employment market, and help prepare graduates accordingly.

The presentation also highlighted Kingston University’s ‘Future Skills Framework’. A key part of the proposition is the creation of a Future Skills Council at Governmental level, that aims to solve the workforce skills challenge and encourage collaboration between government, industry and education providers. Their end goal for HE will be to pilot modules that integrate skills for innovation into learning, and work with employers to deliver career opportunities that draw in future-facing skills. This should ultimately help graduates to identify, apply and demonstrate in-demand skills.

Handshake’s very own Charles Hardy then took over and talked about how Handshake aims to help graduates with the next stage in their career and actively bridge the current skills gap that exists between graduates and employers.

To do so, Handshake is developing tools to help careers professionals guide students in understanding the skills they’ve gained, what new ones to secure and how to evidence this. Data on what skills employers are most likely to be looking for will be used to build a more effective matching system between graduates and employers, facilitating human-centred, skills-based recruitment.

For employers, the Handshake AI will display profiles of relevant graduates, based on the skills they have acquired. These will be evidenced based on work experience, their degree modules, and any additional courses and societies – providing employers with a clearer picture of a student’s experience and capabilities when engaging with candidates.

Both participants argued that the traditional recruitment process needs to change and that skills-based hiring – fuelled by tech – could have a long-term positive impact. To do so, universities and tech providers need to enable employers to make better-informed decisions on candidates, potentially engage them earlier in their education journey to promote relevant upskilling, and access a wider pool of students and graduates based on their suitability for a job – rather than their background or existing connections.

Keen to explore the future of skills and learn more about Handshake’s Skills Articulation tool? Register now for Handshake’s Product Roadmap Webinar taking place via Zoom on October 12th at 11:30am. During the webinar we will provide an overview of recently released product updates as well as new releases universities can expect to see in the near future, including our vision for a skills-based hiring marketplace for students.