“Ready or not, here they come”: a case study on preparing Gen Z graduates for the workplace

Lucy McGrath, Programme Leader, and Anne Pettitt, Employability Support Officer, share Liverpool Business School's experience in facilitating employability skills development in their latest student cohorts.

What is a ‘Gen Z’ student?

So called ‘Generation Z’ students (born post-1995) are defined by a number of characteristics, which will influence the ways in which they will learn and engage.

They are generally:

  1. Financially focused
  2. Entrepreneurial
  3. Technology led
  4. Competitive
  5. Welcome to change
  6. Independent and focussed
  7. Accepting and open to new ideas

Source: https://blog.ttisuccessinsights.com/10-defining-characteristics-of-generation-z

How has Liverpool Business School adapted to Gen Z students’ ways of learning and engaging, and prepare them for the workplace?

The option of a placement year within an employment-focused programme gives students an accessible route to gaining vital work experience.  Our experience at LBS suggests that it is the student’s decision whether or not to engage in the placement/internship process which is of significance. This decision is often complex and is influenced by many factors, including location, accommodation, student demographic, the influence of individuals such as friends and family, and time commitment needed to complete applications.

Within the Accounting & Finance programme we have attempted to address some of the barriers to engagement. With a focused approach we have increased placement numbers from fewer than 10 to more than 50 between 2014 and 2018, with over a third of the cohort now opting in to the industrial placement year.

Considering the various ways that Gen Z students learn and engage has been an important part of the process alongside an innovative approach to the portfolio assessment. Our initiatives included:

  • Linking active participation/engagement with the placement/internship process to assessment in a skills-based employability module.
  • An off-site assessment centre simulation exercise designed to build confidence.
  • The introduction of an employability mentor scheme for 2nd year students to receive motivational support and advice from returning placement students with most interaction happening virtually.
  • Acknowledging that communication via social media is the norm has led to the creation of dedicated Facebook and WhatsApp groups to promote opportunities. Anecdotally, our experience is that platforms that generate instant notifications prove more successful than communications via email.
  • A dedicated member of staff from the employability team allocated to the programme to provide consistency of support and motivation.

The future?

Successful initiatives from the Accounting and Finance programme will be rolled out across other programmes within the school in the academic year 2019/20.

These include:

  • A common, 20 credit, semester one, employability module at Level 5 which will run across the main business programmes. The evidence based portfolio assessment will focus on engagement with employers, mentors, developing digital skills and building confidence with recruitment processes.
  • A school wide employability mentor scheme with over 30 mentors already signed up.
  • A school wide alumni event early in the academic year to give experience of networking and an opportunity to meet alumni and hear their stories.
  • Incorporating contact with employers into the curriculum wherever possible rather than as an optional activity outside of core delivery.
  • Regular catch up meetings to promote vacancies, scheduled at fortnightly intervals throughout both semesters.

We will reflect on this structure at regular intervals and have the opportunity to gather data as to the varying degrees of success of the different initiatives when the portfolio assessments are submitted at the end of the semester.

If you would like to share ideas or would like a more detailed insight into our approach it would be great to hear from you!

 By Lucy McGrath, Programme Leader, and Anne Pettitt, Employability Support Officer, Liverpool Business School