The employability of graduates has become more significant for universities over the past two decades with changes in higher education policy causing marketisation effects. This has caused a push factor from students, who are increasingly paying attention to destinations data of programmes and pull factors from employers who demand “work ready” graduates. This places significant pressure on universities to achieve sufficient integration of employability preparedness into and alongside curricula. Small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can be seen as a “poor relation” to the hype and considerable marketing resources that large employers use to promote attractive graduate schemes. However, innovative SMEs have much to offer graduates in terms of workplace development and levels of employee satisfaction. The aim of this research is via semi-structured interviews with engineering graduates and managers to identify those needs which are most sought after by SMEs. This pilot study interviewed five participants from three SMEs and found a need for the following features in engineering graduates: strong foundations; effective communication, including listening skills; empathy and emotional intelligence; the value of experience; good project management skills; and manufacturing competence. The results identify areas for university staff wishing to prepare their students as well as students themselves wishing to progress into work in SMEs.

Authors: Chris G. Lambert, Paul Ashwin

Published in: Ireland International Conference on Education (IICE-2022)

  • Date of Conference: 26-28 April 2022
  • DOI: 10.20533/IICE.2022.0005
  • ISBN: 978-1-913572-46-4
  • Conference Location: Virtual (Dún Laoghaire, Ireland)