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Demystifying policy


year degrees but my bet is they will innovate to differentiate. Two year degrees, apprentice degrees, employer specific degrees – all could become more common options.


But why, you may well be wondering, with student enrolment numbers at all-time highs and strong graduate employment rates, is so much change being pushed through the system? The answer can be found in the UK’s productivity problem. UK output per worker is 17% below the average for the seven largest global economies. Other countries consistently produce more with less and are therefore more competitive. US gross domestic product per hour worked is $64, Germany’s $58 and the UK’s $49, according to the OECD.


By forcing businesses to invest more heavily in skills through the apprentice levy and by enabling students to achieve better employment outcomes, the government is expecting long-term productivity gains, which will make the UK more competitive at home and internationally.


Through the apprentice levy, organisations will face a higher cost base but they will also be put in control of where their ‘vouchers’ for apprentice training are spent. The hope is that training is focused on areas of business need. If the higher education system produces graduates that are better aligned to employer needs, i.e. less media but more IT graduates, businesses should experience fewer skills gaps and be able to run more productive and efficient businesses.


Combine the apprentice levy with the proposed changes to HE, and the emerging talent landscape looks set to change substantially by the next General Election. Employers and students have the potential to exert a far greater influence on how higher education institutions structure and deliver


degrees. In the near future, sixth-formers will search for online details of the teaching quality alongside the student survey results and career outcomes they can already access. They will also find out how much graduates from a particular course are earning. What degrees will look most appealing? I suspect those that combine rigorous teaching with employer partnerships and work experience will demonstrate a highly marketable combination of high student satisfaction and above average salaries.


Some sectors are further down this path than others. Look at the options facing a 17 year-old wannabe accountant. All the major firms offer most of the following entry points to the profession: school leaver, higher apprentice or a variety of partnership degrees. That same student could of course take a straight accounting degree, or still just park the decision and choose any degree. All options have potential equality of outcomes.


In my mind, the glaring policy gap still remains within schools careers education. If young people cannot be guided through the plethora of options and be shown where their strengths lie, the UK’s asymmetry in education supply and employer demand will remain a barrier to growth in the economy.


Despite what many may think, the government does consult. So avoiding ‘politics’ because it either turns us off or because we assume someone else is


UK output


per worker is 17% below the average


for the seven largest global economies. Other countries consistently produce more with less and are therefore more competitive.


taking care of our interests means we hand over influence and control to others. This is why the AGR has been investing in its research and analysis capability.


The AGR has worked with BIS to research how the graduate market operates, presented to various parliamentary committees, submitted evidence to the consultation on international student visa caps and is currently assisting with working groups to input employer views on the teaching excellence framework. Our job is to scan the political landscape and lobby on your behalf. So the more engaged you are as members, the more informed our interventions are. Completing the surveys helps as does your input at sector focus group meetings. And if you have a particular point of view you want raised, call any of us at the office.


Our input can influence opinions and alter policy.


POLICY POLICY POLICY POLICY www.agr.org.uk | Graduate Recruiter 09


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