China-UK Collaborative Partnerships in Employability and Entrepre

Mon, 30 Jul 2012 17:57:00 BST

The University of Huddersfield’s award-winning Careers and Employability Service and the School of Education and Professional Development recently showcased the results of a major research project – funded by the British Council – which straddled the UK and China and aimed to boost the job prospects of students from both countries.

Stephen Boyd, who heads the University of Huddersfield’s Careers and Employability Service, explained that the project, named ‘China-UK Collaborative Partnerships in Employability and Entrepreneurship’, had a number of aims, which included enhancing the employment prospects of Chinese students when they returned to their home country after studying in the UK.

Also, Chinese graduates thinking of staying in Britain received guidance regarding the UK workplace – and there was tailored help and advice for British students aiming to explore career opportunities in China.  This is likely to be a growth area as the Chinese economy continues to expand.

“On my visit to Shanghai in particular, it was evident that the labour market was very globalised and had a distinct international flavour.  As such there continues to be numerous opportunities for people from all over the world, especially the UK,” said Mr Boyd.

The University of Huddersfield hosted an event in June 2012 in which the results of the British Council-funded project were unveiled.  Research began in early 2011, building on an established partnership between the University’s School of Education and Professional Development and Guangdong Polytechnic Normal University, in Guangzhou.

Teams from Huddersfield and Guangzhou have made reciprocal visits, pooling ideas and taking an audit of graduate and employability skills, from the perspective of both students and employers.

There were a number of skills and attributes, such as commercial acumen and self reliance that are equally valued by employers in both countries, said Mr Boyd, but others appeared to have a more local flavour, for example, many Chinese companies seemed to place a special premium on company loyalty.

One major outcome of the research project was the creation of an online employability tool that can be used by both UK and Chinese students.  This package was showcased at the event and has already attracted keen interest from many other UK and Chinese universities. A paper on the research will also be presented to the 2012 University Annual Teaching and Learning Conference.

Meanwhile, the scheme is to be the subject of a case study compiled by the University Alliance, a group of 23 business-engaged universities around the UK.

The report of the project by the funders, the British Council includes much praise.  ‘We are really pleased to hear the positive outcomes which have been achieved as a result of the partnership and are thrilled that your work is set to continue. Our external consultant has reviewed the final report and her comments are as follows:

The outputs were impressive; it is particularly pleasing that so many employers were consulted… and the reflections on the comparative data were fascinating.

The interactive employability skills package to support students in self-presentation and accessing vacancies is really excellent. The online materials are easy to use, and I am sure will be welcomed enthusiastically by other higher education careers services. In broader terms, the project contributed to the raising of awareness within both institutions of international employability issues as well as the specific curriculum review undertaken… The study tours…achieved more than is sometimes the case for these events; possibly because the programmes were very well-focussed on the desired outcomes, and the partnership was well-established.

It has been a great achievement to deliver so much in such a tight time-frame.

There seems to be little doubt about the sustainability of this project, which has been built upon and extended to a well-established partnership. The research agenda of both institutions also appears to have been influenced by this project and future conference papers and journal entries are envisaged.

This project offers an excellent example of what can be achieved in a very short space of time by a strategically planned and ably implemented programme.’

Dr Ann Harris, project leader said of the project, ‘I think both Universities should feel proud of their achievements, of the creativity of their collaboration and the legacy that it represents. This has been a really good project in terms of building our partnership and has produced valuable outcomes that will develop the employability skills of Chinese graduates at Guangdong Normal Polytechnic University and the University of Huddersfield.’

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