Ensuring employable graduates - how our sector can help

Ensuring employable graduates - how our sector can help 

Chair: Spencer Moore, Director of Strategy, CIMSPA
Steven Osborne, Principal Lecturer in Sport Management, Cardiff Metropolitan University Jeff Lynch, Director of Human Resources, GLL
Jon Glenn, Learn to Swim and Workforce Director, Swim England
Russ Smith, Senior Tutor People Developer and Network, Street Games
Matt Rhodes, Head of Policy, AoC Sport

Setting the scene

In 2013, YouGov surveyed employers and found that:

More than half of major employers (UK) say that the graduates they hire are not ‘work ready’ on leaving university.’

‘Communication skills, teamwork, resilience and punctuality are among the attributes employers want.’

(Research conducted by YouGov with 635 employers, Times, 2013)

In 2014/15, it was estimated that:

  • £112M spent on training apprentices.
  • £113M spent on educating student in FE.
  • £600M spent on educating student in HE.
  • £300M spent on training by employers and individuals.

This is a TOTAL of £1.1Bn per year invested into education and training and yet most employers in our sector believe college and university graduates are still not fit for purpose. 20% of all vacancies in the sport and physical activity sector are classed as “hard to fill” due to significant skills shortages (approximately 17,200 vacancies per year).

There are approximately 75,000 students studying in sport and physical activity sector related degrees:

  • 52,000 study sports science degrees.
  • 25,000 study courses in subjects such as leisure and coaching.

The sector therefore needs an education pathway that maximises government investment, produces a fit for purpose workforce and is attractive to individuals studying in it. It also needs to ensure that employers own and “invest” into the system.

CIMSPA’s aim is to spend the £1,100,000,000 more effectively but it is also aware of changes and pending changes to the current education system that could also influence this picture.

“Vocational” becomes “Technical”

Matt Rhodes, AoC Sport, explained that since the post-16 skills plan by Lord Sainsbury vocational qualifications had been reviewed and streamlines with ‘technical’ becoming the new ‘vocational’. The subjects and content have now been streamlined into 15 routes with sport and physical activity not being identified with its own route. The sector has requested for sport and physical activity to be better considered, but this ask will come at a price.

From this process there will be a demand for 10 weeks of ‘quality’ work placements that equated to 20,000 hours per year of work placements.

The new technical levels (also referred to as ‘T’ levels) will be available in 2019 - giving the sector 3 years to get ready.

Employer perspectives

Jeff Lynch, GLL, described the current pressures large operators face. Managers are currently hard pressed to deliver current apprenticeships demands, including the support, care, personal attention and mentorship that makes a ‘successful apprenticeship’.

It is not the want or desire that managers lack to invest in initiatives such as apprenticeships or work placements, but the demands of their current workloads and jobs. There are also the financial considerations that are required to deliver a high quality work placement/ apprenticeship and when this is combined with work pressures, the ability for employers to provide ‘high quality’ experiences is challenging.

Jon Glenn described challenges that Swim England have recently faced, particularly around interviewing and recruiting graduates.

Graduates arrive and are still not ‘work ready’ – they approach interviews with a lack of understanding about the organisation and the role they would be undertaking. They are typically unable to showcase their skills, knowledge and behaviours as they are under prepared for the types of questions they will be asked about the organisation and their suitability for the role they are applying for.

Russ Smith, Street Games, outlined how they often do not recruit graduates, as such candidates would not have local knowledge of the area being covered to ensure that they can relate to local issues. Street Games often supports individuals from local areas with their education to ensure that they come back to the programmes with relevant education and local experience that they can draw on to be successful in later work.

Case study – Wolverhampton University

Russ also explained other solutions that they have found through his work on an academic board with Wolverhampton University. Wolverhampton University “stop” their timetable for a week to deliver a career development week where specific classes are timetabled to support students and their career needs. West Bromwich Albion Football Club also provide support where they facilitate a ‘work with us’ week to showcase what it really means to be a coach, sports therapist etc.

Graduates arrive and are still not ‘work ready’ – they approach interviews with a lack of understanding about the organisation and the role they would be undertaking.
— John Glenn, Swim England

From HE to the working world

Steve Osborne was asked what was happening in higher education to support the employability agenda. Steve explained that higher education institutions (HEIs) are now being measured by the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), which is based on a knowledge and skills framework that links directly with industry. HEIs are also being measured through the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education survey (DELI) which measures what all leavers from higher education programmes are doing six months after finishing their course.

Employability is high on HEI’s agendas and more work-based programmes are now in place. This demand at Cardiff Metropolitan University alone has identified a need for 100,000 hours of work placements annually. This presents several issues:

  • The size of organisations available to take work placements as most sports clubs, sports organisations and national governing bodies are micro and small to medium organisations.
  • The quality of the work placements.
  • How to ensure effective communication between organisations, students and the university.

Case study – Cardiff Metropolitan University

Cardiff Metropolitan University is working hard to be creative with solutions to the problems that sourcing work placements can face. Wherever possible, work related learning is embedded into course content with real-life examples being demonstrated to students throughout their duration of learning.  An enterprise employment module is now also readily available to deal with the growing entrepreneur/gig economy from the current student cohort.

The university also has a fantastic event held at the Millennium Stadium that sees students engage with alumni and sector professionals and graduate fairs.

The concerns from Steve’s perspective is that the average graduate schemes are currently recruiting at £30,000 per year, top graduate jobs can reach up to £40,000 per year. Currently the sport and physical activity sector are not competing in this league.

Conclusions and action points from the panel

Spencer asked the panel to provide an action point for CIMSPA to work on to improve this area, the panel gave the following areas of work:

  1. The interface between HE and the sport and physical activity sector, from elite to community and all facets of CIMSPA’s industry wheel (physical activity and health, community sport, sport performance and administration, exercise and fitness and leisure operations).
  2. To identify what is good practice in relation to work placements and to communicate the career pathway options to students/graduates.
  3. To ask questions of HEIs to see why they are doing the things they are doing - does it fill the gap? Having a greater presence on academic boards.
  4. For national governing bodies (NGB’s) to work collaboratively to provide a comprehensive and quality work placements (e.g. 3 months at Swim England, 3 months at Badminton England etc.)
  5. To influence careers advisors and build their awareness of the sport and physical activity sector so that there is more influence and understanding of our sector.