Belfast Telegraph

More graduates go back to study as recession hits jobs

By Symon Ross

Interest in gaining business and management qualifications has increased as jobs have become tougher to get in the recession, according to the incoming Dean of the University of Ulster’s Business School.

Professor Marie McHugh, currently head of the university’s department of management, said that the current economic environment has particularly increased take up of post-graduate and post-experience degrees among people keen to differentiate themselves from the competition.

“This year we have noticed a big increase in demand for our full-time post-graduate programmes from graduates,” she said. “If you are leaving education and you enrol on a post-graduate course that provides you with an opportunity to be linked to an employer through an inbuilt internship, not only are you enhancing your own marketability, but you are enhancing your chances of getting your foot on the career ladder as well.”

Prof McHugh said there is also an increasing desire among people studying for an MBA to fast track through that programme and gain the qualification, which research shows has a positive effect on their ability to command a higher salary and progress in the workplace.

UU’s business school covers the range of business education from undergraduate, postgraduate and post-experience, with many courses including marketing and accounting, HR management, financial services, tourism and leadership.

Despite the difficult job market Prof McHugh doesn’t believe graduates are necessarily being forced to look outside Northern Ireland for work.

“To date we have not experienced major evidence of a brain drain. Part of this is being close to your market and ensuring your offerings are current and meet perceived market.

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“We place a lot of emphasis on our relationships with employers and we are very keen to ensure that the graduates we produce have the knowledge and skills that make them very good candidates for the workplace,” she said.

“We have engaged in a lot of consultation with employers to find out what skills they felt young graduates needed to have in the workplace.

“Through that we identified, for example, they thought it was important a new graduate can work well as part of a team, that they have good communication and presentation skills, that they have good problem solving and analytical skills. We’ve taken that and built it into our programmes. Our aim is to make our graduates highly employable,” she said.

The Business School has worked with employers such as BT, First Trust Bank, the Irish League of Credit Unions and Translink to run customised programmes. It has also developed links to professional bodies such as the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development to incorporate their standards into courses. Those firms that continue to invest in training their workforce will emerge from the recession stronger as a result, said Prof McHugh.

“In an environment where things are difficult it’s very important that you listen carefully to employers to ensure that wherever possible we provide flexible programmes of study that meet their current and future anticipated needs,” she said.

“One of the things we often see is when money gets tight an organisation’s training budget gets cut. However, if you can provide education and training that is extremely relevant it can help employers remain competitive. If you’re workforce is very highly skilled and well trained it obviously gives you an advantage.”

sross@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Belfast Telegraph

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