More could be done to encourage graduates to return to Jersey after study, with plans for paid vacation internships and funding for industry-relevant short courses, according to an official report.
Released last week, the 'FE and Skills Actionable Agenda' report raises concerns about the loss of Jersey graduates after they complete their studies, and offers some solutions.
The loss of graduates was a point of concern raised by “many correspondents” throughout the process of the report writing, despite higher education not being the direct concern of the paper.
Although there is “no politically acceptable or practicable means of forcing Jersey graduates to return to the island”, the report suggests that more could be done to encourage young islanders to return after studying in the UK or further afield.
One suggestion is paid internships in Jersey businesses during university holidays. The report proposes that these internships should be “particularly aimed at students without prior links to the industries concerned”.
The report references a similar scheme run by UK charity Career Ready which arranges internships with blue-chip firms in England and Scotland targeted at students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The charity says that these paid internships are a great way to engage diverse talent, boost social mobility, and fix a ‘post-covid skills crisis’. 97% of the students who took part in Career Ready’s internships say that that their internship helped them develop useful career skills, and gave employers access to local talent.
The FE and Skills Actionable Agenda report also suggests that graduates could be encouraged to return to Jersey through providing them with an “entitlement to industry-relevant short courses”.
Pictured: Industry-relevant short courses could allow graduates to further their studying on-island.
Examples of this outlined in the report include an engineering graduate who could complete a HND in applied engineering, or an arts graduate could complete a professional qualification such as marketing on returning to Jersey.
The Jersey Student Loan Support Group, which was set up by parents in 2015 due to what they perceived as inadequate funding of Higher Education, have been campaigning for many years to make funding available to those that have the capacity and desire to study at degree level to ensure that the number of graduates in Jersey does not continue to decline.
Nicki Heath, leader of the pressure group, said: "Whatever schemes the Government may wish to put in place to encourage graduates back, they firstly have to ensure that they have the graduates in the first place and that does not happen without adequate funding.
"The reason the previous funding scheme became useless was because the funding was never kept in line with RPI or tuition fee increases, and the Government are sadly now following the same pattern again.
"The new Government Plan mentions an update for September 2023, however students will need to make their UCAS applications before the end of January with no idea what funding they can expect. This makes financial planning impossible."
She added: "We had pointed out seven years ago that Government departments importing skills and cutting back on training budgets was giving the message to graduates that they weren't wanted. At least they have now started to address that, but they need to make that message loud and clear."
Pictured: Some graduates cannot return to the island due to the high cost of living and lack of affordable housing.
She also raised concerns that graduate opportunities offered on-island would not be able to compete with those offered to students in the UK.
She explained: "Graduates have a number of opportunities for industry-related internships, or indeed in another area of interest whilst they are away at university. Students in their second or third year are often paying rent for a whole year anyway, so they may well stay in the UK for the holidays to take those opportunities.
"Universities spend a lot of time engaging industry and industries invest in research in UK universities, so any opportunity in Jersey is going to need to compete with this and paying the students should be a given.
"We do see Law and Accountancy opportunities on-island, but very little of any other careers promoted. There will need to be a real effort to engage with students to encourage them."
She concluded: "It also needs to be recognised that some students do stay away to gain wider or international job experience, and then come back to Jersey at a later date.
"Others don't come back because the industry simply doesn't exist here or, if it does, there may only be one person employed doing that in the whole island. For others, it will be the cost of living and lack of housing, but without efforts made to contact graduates and gather that data, it is only a best guess."
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