Out of class ex­pe­ri­ences

Pro­fes­sor Fred Mcdougall dis­cusses why out of class­room ex­pe­ri­ences are es­sen­tial for ed­u­ca­tion and build­ing fu­ture busi­ness lead­ers.

Business First - - CONTENTS - by Pro­fes­sor Fred McDougall

One of the big­gest ques­tions that arises when businesses look to ex­pand, par­tic­u­larly within the Asian re­gion, is how to max­imise or best lever­age the op­por­tu­ni­ties that present them­selves.

The im­por­tance of gain­ing rel­e­vant ex­pe­ri­ence ‘out­side the class­room’ is not a new one, but the va­ri­ety of op­por­tu­ni­ties avail­able to mo­ti­vated stu­dents is rapidly evolv­ing – and em­ploy­ers are tak­ing no­tice.

In fact, a se­lect group of Aus­tralian em­ploy­ers were re­cently asked about the key traits they seek when re­cruit­ing grad­u­ates, rais­ing the is­sue of the value of ‘book smarts’ com­pared to hand­son in­dus­try ex­pe­ri­ence. Their an­swers were telling.

Un­sur­pris­ingly, all ac­knowl­edged the im­por­tance of so-called tra­di­tional skills such as re­search, writ­ing and in­dus­try knowl­edge ac­quired through univer­sity study. Each em­ployer was also quick to point out the value of can­di­dates demon­strat­ing prac­ti­cal ap­pli­ca­tion of their the­o­ret­i­cal knowl­edge, as well as strong com­mu­ni­ca­tion, net­work­ing and in­ter­per­sonal skills; with those who could demon­strate pre­vi­ous in­dus­try im­mer­sion con­sid­ered more highly than those whose skills were ap­par­ently purely on paper

Most qual­ity uni­ver­si­ties are strength­en­ing their fo­cus on fa­cili- tat­ing sit­u­a­tions where stu­dents are ‘learn­ing through do­ing’, not only to pro­vide an op­por­tu­nity to ex­pe­ri­ence their de­sired in­dus­try at an early stage in their stud­ies, but to help de­velop gen­uine workplace in­ter­per­sonal skills, to be­gin build­ing a rel­e­vant net­work of con­tacts and to bet­ter equip grad­u­ates to make the tran­si­tion from class­room to workplace.

A key con­se­quence of the in­creas­ingly borderless global em­ploy­ment mar­ket is in­ten­si­fy­ing com­pe­ti­tion for jobs, with em­ploy­ers able to source po­ten­tial re­cruits from an ex­pand­ing, and in­creas­ingly mo­bile talent pool in which grad­u­ates with on-the-ground ex­pe­ri­ence are ris­ing to the top.

Find­ings from the lat­est Grad­u­ate Out­look 2013 sur­vey on “Em­ploy­ers’ Per­spec­tives on Grad­u­ate Re­cruit­ment” by Grad­u­ate Ca­reers Aus­tralia found that be­sides the ob­vi­ous need for rel­e­vant qual­i­fi­ca­tions, “In­ter­per­sonal and com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills” was the most im­por­tant se­lec­tion cri­te­ria for em­ploy­ers eval­u­at­ing ap­pli­cants.

Grad­u­ates’ “pas­sion, in­dus­try knowl­edge, drive, com­mit­ment and at­ti­tude” was con­sid­ered the sec­ond most im­por­tant se­lec­tion cri­te­ria; with “crit­i­cal rea­son­ing, prob­lem solv­ing, lat­eral think­ing” in third place; and “work ex­pe­ri­ence” rank­ing fifth (com­ing in just un­der cal­i­bre of aca­demic re­sults), up from sixth five years ago.

Whilst it may seem in­con­gru­ous that Tor­rens Univer­sity Aus­tralia es­pouses the im­por­tance of skills gained “out­side the class­room” when em­ploy­ers ranked work ex­pe­ri­ence in fifth place, there’s good rea­son for it.

Many of the skills stu­dents de­velop via ac­tiv­i­ties re­lated to their stud­ies yet un­der­taken out­side the class­room are those that gen­uinely de­velop soft skills in­creas­ingly sought af­ter by em­ploy­ers – such as com­mu­ni­ca­tion, in­dus­try knowl­edge, ne­go­ti­a­tion, prob­lem solv­ing, lat­eral think­ing and con­flict

res­o­lu­tion. The abil­ity to be able to demon­strate how these skills have been honed in real life sit­u­a­tions, as well as be­ing able to demon­strate – through ac­tive in­volve­ment – pas­sion, drive and com­mit­ment to a prospec­tive em­ployer is a valu­able as­set for any CV.

This is why Tor­rens is fo­cused on en­sur­ing out­side of the class­room ex­pe­ri­ences are in­cor­po­rated as an in­te­gral part of the univer­sity ex­pe­ri­ence. Whether this be via in­ter­na­tional study pro­grams, in­dus­try work place­ments, or through men­tor­ing and net­work­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties – such as at this year’s World Busi­ness Fo­rum (WBF) in Syd­ney.

Men­tor­ing has long been seen as a valu­able tool in de­vel­op­ing fu­ture lead­ers, and re­cently a co­hort of stu­dents – in­clud­ing un­der­grad­u­ate and post­grad­u­ate stu­dents study­ing on-cam­pus and on­line – from Tor­rens Univer­sity Aus­tralia un­der­took roles as Stu­dent Am­bas­sadors at the WBF event, as­sist­ing high pro­file key­note

‘ A key con­se­quence of the

in­creas­ingly borderless global em­ploy­ment mar­ket is in­ten­si­fy­ing com­pe­ti­tion for jobs, with em­ploy­ers able to source po­ten­tial re­cruits from an ex­pand­ing, and in­creas­ingly

mo­bile talent pool in which grad­u­ates with on-the-ground ex­pe­ri­ence are ris­ing to the top.’

speak­ers in­clud­ing John Howard, Randi Zucker­berg, Kevin Roberts, Michael Porter, Lyn He­ward, An­dreas Weigend, Ge­orge Kohlrieser, Gary Hamel and Ram Cha­ran to “learn through do­ing” in an au­then­tic and en­gag­ing way.

As demon­strated by the hun­dreds of ap­pli­ca­tions we re­ceived from Tor­rens stu­dents to be part of the WBF Am­bas­sador pro­gram, we know it is this kind of hands-on ex­pe­ri­ence and ex­po­sure to in­dus­try that is greatly val­ued by stu­dents.

In the many years I have been in­volved in the ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor, I’ve found that grad­u­ates with the broad­est range of learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ences of­ten gain the most out of their pro­grams, and the value they add to their fu­ture ca­reers.

Many in­sti­tu­tions are im­ple­ment­ing some as­pect of in­dus­try part­ner­ships and over­seas col­lab­o­ra­tion; how­ever these ini­tia­tives need to be ex­tended through­out univer­sity pro­grams, and be of­fered to all stu­dents no mat­ter what their mode of study. [Note the in­ter­na­tional study trimester is only avail­able to un­der­grad­u­ate stu­dents.]

It’s only a mat­ter of time be­fore savvy stu­dents will de­mand as much em­pha­sis be placed on their learn­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties out­side the class­room as they do on the the­o­ret­i­cal knowl­edge they gain on the in­side – and pro­gres­sive ed­u­ca­tion providers will need to adapt and evolve to meet the chal­lenge. Pro­fes­sor Fred McDougall, Vice-Chan­cel­lor and Pres­i­dent, Tor­rens Univer­sity Aus­tralia. Fred was Deputy Vice-Chan­cel­lor and Vice-Pres­i­dent (Aca­demic) at the Univer­sity of Ade­laide, an ap­point­ment he held from 2005 un­til 2011. Pre­vi­ously he was the Foun­da­tion Pro­fes­sor of Man­age­ment at the Univer­sity, an ap­point­ment he has held since 1987, and Ex­ec­u­tive Dean of the Fac­ulty of the Pro­fes­sions. www.tua.edu.au/about-us/gov­er­nance

Pro­fes­sor Fred

McDougall is Vice-Chan­cel­lor

and Pres­i­dent, Tor­rens Univer­sity


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