What Employers want and what Students say


Oct 4, 2013 (4 years and 9 months ago)


What Employers want and
what Students

Dr Sheena Murphy, Department of Computing & Mathematics

Background to
Future Fit

A UUK/CBI partnership established a Task Force to explore what business
wants from higher education, how business and universities can best work
together and how the sector should be funded to achieve this.

The Future Fit report forms part of the work of the Task Force, with a final
report due later in 2009.

A survey of 581 employers collectively employing over 2.5 million people 8%
of the total workforce

A survey of 880 students at 20 universities

A survey of 80 HEIs

Other relevant reports include:

Employability Skills Explored published by the LSN 2008, &

Pulling Through Employment Trends Survey, CBI 2008

Source: Future Fit, Preparing graduates for the world of work 2009, Exhibit 1, p21.

82% improve their employability

60% Work with employers to
provide more work experience

Employers Want

What should
universities prioritise

in terms of undergraduates?

Graduate Awareness of

74% of companies who have university links do so to provide work experience
placements for graduates (


40% of employers consider the level of business, non
technical & interpersonal
skills of new recruits to be below company requirements (Pulling Through
Employment Trends Survey 2008)

35% employer dissatisfaction in terms of graduate awareness of business and
customer issues (


18% of students believe
they fully develop their business and customer
awareness skills during their time at university. This is consistent with the
message coming from



“Most students feel that they are gaining employability skills & feel their course
is an effective means to achieve this, there is a strong and often unmet demand
for specific programmes to address employability and internships/placements”

Future Fit, Preparing graduates for the world of work 2009


Graduate Talent Pool is the new
Government internship matching service

Other opportunities available to graduates include:

round 14,000 additional postgraduate places

supported by 30,000 extra
Career Development Loans next year

250 short term placements through Mini Knowledge Transfer partnerships,
rising to 500 in 2010/11

olunteering options available through "V", an organisation aimed at young
people between 16
25, and other voluntary organisations and

500 teach first opportunities in 2009, up 130 from 2008

Source: Future Fit, Preparing graduates for the world of work 2009, Exhibit 7, p24.

78% an internship/placement

66% work experience

(1 month or less)

Sandwich year as part of my
course 63%

Students Say

Proportion of students who had

undertaken a
programme finding it

very useful


“At University you learn how to do things the ‘right way’, the
ideal way, the way it should be done, but in the real world, you
can’t always apply a ‘text
book’ approach to problem solving”

The importance of real world problem solving

“Real world problems are often difficult to solve, and you need to
try a variety of approaches to find the most suitable solution”

“It’s great practical experience and you can only get this
experience if you go out on placement”


“After working 35 hours for 44 weeks on projects I got the best
project management training I could have wished for. I went
straight into my final year project, knowing how to write a
terms of reference, and knowing what was expected in the
design and development of my system.

What you learn is real world project management

“I am now doing a PhD, because I learnt that research was what I
wanted to do whilst on placement”

“My placement prepared me for my final year and for my
research project. My placement has had a great deal to do
with my success”

Student Name



Computing and Mathematics

Programme of Study

BSc (Hons) Information Systems

Placement Employer

AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals

Department of Discovery Information (Bioinformatics)

A’s Comment

“I found myself working in bioinformatics, contributing a significant amount to the development and deployment of software ne
d by research scientists.
What you offer can be a real bonus to an employer”.

Employer’s Comment

“A’s key strength is his positive ‘can do’ attitude combined with his ability to work independently and seek solutions to pro

Log Book (extracts)










“Even though it’s only been three days, I’ve
learned a lot and have already completed
one mini project, a portal extension using
SHTML for new tumour geneticists based in

“I have been given a set of books with the
instruction: “Go and learn Perl”

which is
required for the next project, which will be
explained next week”.

“I have got down to repairing a tool which will
down load journals to a Sequence Retrieval
System (SRS), a database designed to integrate,
analyse and display bioinformatics, genomic and
related data. This has 17 million entries! This
task has taken a lot of Perl knowledge and
structured diagnosis”.

“My jobs pile is stacking up now, all to be done in

“I have written a piece of Perl from scratch with over
400 lines of code, which will take files from various
directories around the network and handle them
appropriately, whether that be the concatenation with
related files, FTPing them from other sites or
Telnetting the departmental server to gain SRS results
and combined that data by ID with the descriptions”.

“What a challenge! I have learnt not just Perl, but
about project management and developed software
engineering skills”.










“My new project runs out of Sweden and is
concerned with business analysis. I will
have to use net conferencing to speak to
my project manager in Sweden”.

“My task is to find out about user
interaction, such as usage patterns and
techniques. I have had to create lots of
views in SQL to hold and manipulate the
data. It’s strange to think that from one
net meeting I have been able to pick up
everything I needed to do on a 4 week

“I am about to start my next project working
with gene expressions and it’s in Perl. I’m feeling

“After some thought I’ve realised that this is
complex. The live database alone has over 30
table, more than 20 000 uploads and some tables
hold 1 billion rows. This is certainly bigger than
any of the earlier projects!”

“I have started working on a text conversion tool which
converts 2 different pharmaceutical data formats”.

“I’m absolutely flying with this. I’ve coded this in Perl
from start to finish”.

“The final year projects will be released soon. There is
one I really want to do. With all this work on file
conversion I’m getting lots of experience before I
undertake what I hope will be the EDI / XML converter!”

Student Name



Computing and Mathematics

Programme of Study

BSc (Hons) Computing

Placement Employer

Echostar Europe

Automated Test Equipment (ATE) Team, Software Section

J’s Comment

“A year in industry is certainly a requirement for anyone doing a practical degree like Computing. I now understand that the
is much more required in
a profession than just a degree and that many useful lifelong skills are much better developed in the workplace, like learnin
g t
o get on with people.”

Employer’s Comment

“J has completed some very solid work on the 4100 boot loader and this has impressed people. This is now deployed in the fie

My Skills Profile

Customer Service

“I worked as an Undergraduate Engineer for a company that designs and manufactures set
top boxes for 3

parties. I learnt how important it is to listen to the customer, to understand their needs and expectations. My
work on the ExpressVu 4100 Bootloader was finished to a high standard and met user requirements.”


“I learnt that communication needs to be clear, concise and appropriate to produce results required for the job.
Being part of a team means that you have to listen to people and be able to communicate your own ideas in the
right way. I learnt to share ideas, ask questions and keep others informed about the work I was doing.”


“ I got to know a lot of people through the projects I worked on. What I discovered was that teams were made up
of both software and hardware engineers, to make the best use of staff expertise for development and testing. I
learnt a lot from mixing in these teams about working in groups and time management. I could be working on one
long term project, be assigned a task with a short
term deadline and be required to support individual requests
from other engineers for new software features or test new hardware.”


“Part of our Intellectual Property (IP) training required us to consider approaches to improve company products.
Looking at new directions for the company is part of an engineers job. I rose to this challenge by suggesting a
product improvement that was later patented.”


“As an engineer you need to be able to manage projects and solve problems effectively and efficiently. I got the
chance to show how well I could overcome obstacles, accept critical feedback and set a good example for others
when I went to work in Almelo in Holland on testing a remote control.”

Technical Skills

“I am now proficient at writing C code for problem solving and understand its use in a real
time operating
system. My technical knowledge covers Build Systems,

and Source Control software. I now have
practical experience of the Software Stack from hardware drivers, Kernel through to main application. I know
how to manually control hardware operation through registers, including Processors (with integrated video
controllers), Ethernet and the controlling PHY, SCART controller, Tuners/Demodulators and USB.As part of the
ATE development team I completed: colour
space alterations, by changing RGB to meet SCART standard, infrared
receive tests to ensure set boxes could correctly receive and interpret IR data and debug to TV output, using an
independent platform for better in
house testing.”


Structured work experience through placements and internships
are regarded by both students and employers as one of the best
ways to develop business and customer awareness

There is student demand for programmes that develop skills for

In times of economic downturn students need more support in
meeting employer demands. Individual support is the most
effective but most resource intensive