Graduate employability has recently become a vital issue in UK higher education (HE) in the last three decades. Tomlinson (2012) examines the shift in the needs and skills of the graduate in the modern job market. He discusses the issue that students need to be employable as well as academically educated in order to compete against their peers. Tomlinson discussed the need for students to undertake extra-curricular activity in order to be considered for appropriate level professions (Tomlinson 2012:412). This paper sets out to examine ‘Common Purpose’ a social enterprise that delivers 4 day courses dedicated to improving leadership and employability skills in undergraduate students.
Common Purpose is an international organisation that has been running leadership development courses (www.commonpurpose.org.uk). SHU and Common Purpose have delivered leadership programmes for undergraduates and postgraduates since 2010. Approximately 250 SHU students attend the programme each year.
Drawing on findings from interviews with 20 undergraduate students across the faculties of Development and Society, Sheffield Business School and Health and Wellbeing, the paper will take a student perspective on what skills, materials and perspectives were taken into consideration by students when choosing to take part in the programme. The aim of the paper is to ask why students have engaged with the Common Purpose programme over other employability and leadership schemes offered at Sheffield Hallam Univeristy. The paper hopes to spark discussion as to what makes a credible employability development programme within a HE institution. The impact of the paper is to contribute to the understanding of student attitudes towards employability programmes, from this paper further research can be developed as to understand what is important to Sheffield Hallam students when developing their own skill sets for employability and in particular, leadership.
Tomlinson, Michael (2012) Graduate employability: a review of conceptual and empirical themes. Higher Education Policy, 25, (4), 407-431.
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