A recent article by John Simpson in the Business Telegraph highlighted the need for universities to do more to prepare young graduates for the world of work. In an environment where knowledge economy expertise is vital for career success his stimulation of interest in this issue is to be welcomed for it goes to the very core of what Ulster University Business School strives to deliver.
Through a progressive approach to business engagement across UUBS, we are taking a critical role in identifying and responding to clear signals in the Northern Ireland skills market, but also increasingly within Ireland and Great Britain.
We are doing this in four ways - companies feeding into curricula, making sure they get the skills they need; a network of senior executives coming in as visiting professors to mentor staff and students; working with other forward-thinking educational partners in the US and China and ensuring value for the business community through a commercially focused advisory forum. What we want to really do is have graduates leaving the business school going into businesses where they can make an immediate impact.
Ulster University Business School (UUBS) recently featured in The Impact Factor, a news and current affairs-style programme produced in partnership with ITN Productions and the Chartered Association of Business Schools (CABS), which reported on the unheralded impact UK business schools have on the UK's economy and on society more widely.
The film focused on UUBS's innovative approach to developing new educational models and how the school is engaging with business and disrupting traditional learning models. There are impactful insights from employers, such as Deloitte Belfast on the major talent strategic partnership between the Business School and Deloitte. Striking features of apprenticeship activity such as this are the flexibility, agility and innovation in the university's response and the multi-disciplinary programme offering, coupled with the development of a platform for conducting world-leading research.
Jackie Henry, Deloitte's senior partner in Belfast, and visiting professor to the business school, has outlined the positive impact those who have joined through the Bright Start programme have made on the company.
Deeply committed to supporting the growth and development of the regional economy, UUBS has sought to ensure that the business school works closely with priority sectors, such as the professional and financial services to actively support the supply of skills and the attractiveness of Northern Ireland as a location to do business. Academic staff and senior management work in partnership with Invest NI and Department for Economy on supporting foreign direct investment (FDI) visits and ensuring that potential investors are aware of the highly supportive and responsive approach to developing customised talent and retention strategies, through new interventions.
In recent years, UUBS has supported the Assured Skills Academies, the development of short courses and customised programmes that support skills development and the retention of exceptional talent within the region; and in addition to well established work-based learning opportunities on all undergraduate programmes.
Since the start of 2019 and in this sector alone, two part-time MSc programmes with First Derivatives PLC and PwC Operate have been launched and are ensuring innovative and contextualised learning within the region.
Clearly there is much still to do and the process of preparing graduates appropriately for career success is evolving at breakneck speed. At UUBS we are committed to play our part, actively engaging with the business sector to develop a range of innovative interventions which will ultimately make graduates employable and give employers exactly what they need.
Professor Gillian Armstrong is director of business engagement at Ulster University Business School