Associate Professor Jennifer Lees-Marshment

By Susan Geertshuis

Yesterday I joined a group of academics and listened to senior staff from Auckland Council, XERO, KiwiRail and MYOB talk about the characteristics they seek in graduates. It was fascinating. They illustrated how important it is for us to develop our students’ abilities to learn and learn fast, to be adaptable, communicative, culturally aware and collaborative.

The session was one of series organised by Associate Professor Jennifer Lees-Marshment and supported by Dr. Sean Sturm, who are both partners on the Future Ready Grads project. Jennifer has initiated a thriving community of academic and professional staff who are collectively exploring what employability means in a research-intensive university, and how to develop the capabilities graduates need. The community of interest attracts up to 30 people to each monthly meeting, which takes the form of discussions, workshops and presentations.

Dr Edward Elder from the Future Ready Grads project, says ‘I have worked with Jennifer on a number of employability related projects, and they have all been valuable additions to the universities pursuit to produce workplace ready graduates. The interest in the COI is fantastic. I think it could be a powerful instrument in getting the word out that we all have an important part to play in preparing students for their future lives and careers.’

Jennifer recommends that other institutions follow her lead, saying, ‘Setting up the employability COI is a really valuable way to connect academics and professional staff from across the institution to discuss this really important and growing area. It is vital to get people together to identify those with expertise within the institution and enable them to support each other and work together on advancing initiatives in employability.’