Enhancing graduate employability with professional certifications

Mortar boards of recent graduates being thrown against the sky by students on graduation

Professional certifications obtained during undergraduate study at university are making a major difference to students’ career prospects.

Above all, the key quality this gives them is enhanced employability.

But what does an industry-recognized qualification actually mean in practice? More than 90% of graduates who have achieved such a certification say it has a multi-faceted effect: allowing them to apply for particular roles, improving promotion prospects and negotiating pay rises.

These findings – taken from recent research* done by AXELOS with more than 800 UK graduates – also reveal that more than three-quarters believe their degree study should equip them with the necessary skills when joining the workforce. However, almost a third (31%) of graduates in our poll claim their degree hasn’t prepared them for the demands of their current job. Worse still, the jobs they’re in are not living up to their pre-university expectations (according to 36%).

This isn’t a problem for graduates alone. Employers are now facing constantly changing economic demands and therefore need graduates to contribute meaningful value as soon as possible after being hired; that means workplace skills that are relevant and ready to deploy. So, if degree courses in the UK aren’t covering all the requirements, what is the role for additional certification?

I’m a graduate – please show me the money

Graduates have told us they’ve missed out by not having the option to study an industry-recognized qualification at university (68%). And it’s no surprise that part of the problem comes down to money: overall, fewer than a quarter (23%) of graduates are earning more than they’d expected, while one third feel short-changed for their investment in a degree.

Employability is the endgame

While universities continue to play a crucial role in developing graduate knowledge, the sentiments shared by our survey respondents suggest there is no room for a leisurely introduction to the workplace and students need work-ready skills as early as possible.

This now means that more than three-quarters (78%) of UK graduates are having to consider additional training/certification to help their professional journey.

The increasing need for employability has led to an emerging trend for higher education courses to include recognized professional certifications such as PRINCE2® and ITIL®.

AXELOS supports this development through its Academia programme, in which universities can introduce the full range of AXELOS certifications including ITIL and PRINCE2 to their existing curriculum. It helps graduates join the job market with practical skills and knowledge, which benefits both graduates and their employers. In the USA for example, over 4,000 students will graduate from universities this year with an ITIL certification as part of their degree.

To help graduates see a return on their tuition fees and, therefore, incorporating a recognized certification into the curriculum will help them cultivate the skills and confidence to succeed in a highly competitive job market. Employability is vital!

*The research was conducted between 11 and 20 September 2019 among 810 graduates in the UK. All participants graduated within the past five years.
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