Posted by: Gillian | August 3, 2011

Oven-ready graduates

A Guardian poll looks at whether or not university graduates should be job-ready, saving the employing company from any initial training – beyond, presumably, the usual health-and-safety stuff.  @DavidaWinter picks this up on Twitter and dubs the resulting graduates ‘oven ready’.  I have visions of students turned into those Thanksgiving turkeys that come with butter product injected under the skin and pop out “I’m cooked” indicators.  If that is a BA/BSc graduate, what is a PhD? Charcoal?  I recently wrote a response to an American on LinkedIn that if training young school-children for jobs was not a hanging offence it certainly should be and I see no real reason to change that rather extreme view at university level. It would be appalling economics.

University courses take about two years on average to crawl through the design and approvals stages.  Most universities will not advertise them until they have been approved so that means about another year before students start them.  Allow four years for the degree.  You already have students entering the job market with training that was approved seven years previously.  Are entreprises really so slow to develop?

If universities work in appropriately worded ‘outcomes’, the picture may not be so dire because courses can be adapted to immediate contexts but that requires a very close ongoing, time-consuming partnership between specific industries and specific courses.  Students may well regard that kind of specificity as useful if there is a guarantee of long-lasting employment along with the graduation certificate but how many employers can genuinely offer, say, ten years’ employment to an enrolling student (i.e. forecast employment needs 14 years ahead)?  The reality, however, is worse because the vast majority of industry-related courses work in ‘objectives’ and custom demands that those objectives are so tightly defined that a first-class degree seven years out-of-date is very possible.

Turkeys are pretty stupid birds.  Pre-wrapped oven-ready ones are bland at best.  Education at its best produces thinking, adaptive, flexible people who fit quickly into a give changing work role rather like someone joining a moving walkway or ski-lift.  These graduates also challenge, develop and grow their jobs so that their company and, by extension, their national economy progresses.  Oven-ready graduates? Saints preserve us from bad politicians!


  1. I think you are right. Education at any level is about being able to think and react to circumstances as they come up. A broad, general education would serve sudents better over time.
    ~ Michael

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