Alumni, People, Research

Students have work-ready skills, dissertation suggests

January 24, 2022

Post-secondary students have sought after employability skills that are necessary to successfully transition to the workforce after graduation.

However, they – and their potential employers – don’t always know this.

Recent Doctor of Education graduate, Jennifer Browne, is using her Dissertation in Practice to highlight how co-curricular experiences, such as on-campus employment, give students the skills they need to enter the workforce.

However, there’s a skills awareness gap, Browne said. Although students develop job-ready skills through activities such as on-campus work, and other experiential learning opportunities at university, she said higher education doesn’t always help students connect the dots between the skills and competencies gained through these experiences, in relation to competing in today’s job market. Increasing students’ awareness of skills gained raises their confidence and ability to articulate them on their resume, and to family, friends and employers.

“These experiences help students develop skills that last a lifetime, which help them transition to work or create transferable skills for future opportunities,” Browne said.

She said many of these sought-after skills are often referred to as soft, human, or non-technical, and are transferrable to many careers.

Browne, the Director of Student Life at Memorial University in Newfoundland and Labrador, received a $100,000 RBC Future Launch grant to implement her Dissertation in Practice to help prepare young people for the future of work.

The grant supported enhancing an existing large on-campus employment program at Memorial University from early Fall 2021 until December of that year. The project saw the creation of new resources for students and supervisors and examined whether on-campus employment increased student’s competencies and skills, Browne said.

While she’s currently analyzing results, so far, statistical analysis shows students working on-campus have reported an increase in confidence in many of the skills analyzed and their awareness of the skills they’ve developed. In fact, the study indicates students see greater value in on-campus employment and it has increased their confidence in finding work after graduation.

“The early results look really promising and we hope to make this a longer-term research project so we can dive even more deeply into the impact of on-campus employment,” Browne said.

While Browne hopes to expand her research in the future, she’s also taking her study and going global right now. Earlier this month, she co-presented with colleagues from the University of Toronto, who have done similar research, to the Network of Employers and University Career Services (INEUCS) – a group of leading employer and career advisory associations from around the world.

“I felt like I struck a chord,” Browne said about her presentation. “We’re all trying to ensure our students are successful as much as possible.”