Àngels Fitó, UOC Vice President for Competitiveness and Employability
Since February 2019, Àngels Fitó, PhD in Economics and UOC Vice President for Competitiveness and Employability, has been responsible for directing and leading an outreach strategy with the business and industrial community. She has made it her goal to encourage knowledge transfer and entrepreneurship through active relationships with the different stakeholders. In a context of pandemic-related job uncertainty and convinced of the contribution that universities can make to increasing their students' and alumni's employability, Fitó has organized the UOC's first online job fair, the Fira Virtual d'Ocupació, which will be held on 16 and 17 November. With this initiative, the University seeks to generate new career opportunities for its students and graduates, while also offering them an opportunity to network with over a hundred participating companies and organizations.
How does the UOC prepare its students for entry in the job market after they complete their degree?
With the changes that are taking place in our economy and society, caused to a great extent by the new technology waves and the so-called digital transformation, social expectations regarding the active role that the universities should play in their students' employability are becoming more demanding.
If we accept that education by itself does not guarantee quality employment, universities should do more to prepare their graduates for directing and managing their careers.
How can we do this?
If we consider that, among other things, social and economic development requires well-trained, competent professionals, universities cannot confine themselves merely to generating and transmitting knowledge. They must also create conditions that are conducive to this knowledge's coalescence in the form of job market integration and the development of individual and collective professional talent. We can do this by training well (that is, by designing the right kind of training) and also by endowing students with the necessary tools to meet two main challenges: ongoing training and career self-management.
Do you have any evidence that proves that this strategy works?
Looking at the various rankings and the more recent studies on university graduate employability, I would like to highlight the U-Ranking 2020, published by the Foundation BBVA and the Valencian Institute of Economic Research (IVIE). This ranking shows that the UOC obtains excellent results as regards our graduates' Social Security registration levels and average contribution base.
In a context of pandemic and job uncertainty, what skills do graduates need in order to find work?
The challenge facing universities is not to prepare a very specific professional profile that is highly vulnerable to obsolescence but to foster individual empowerment and ability to adapt to continual change. In their selection processes, companies are more likely to consider soft skills, such as teamwork, problem-solving, leadership, conflict management, assertiveness, resilience, critical thinking and adaptation to change, than technical or hard skills, which are the skills specifically required for performing a particular job.
In the new work context, we need to prepare for a succession of educational and professional stages conceived in accordance with different formulas and integrated in different settings. In this variable-geometry employment scenario, graduates need to understand how they can design and redesign their lifelong learning and professional career, and universities must meet the challenge of endowing them with sufficient tools to make the right decisions at the right time. And the UOC has 25 years of experience in supporting people in their path toward lifelong learning.
Will the COVID-19 crisis create more favourable conditions for employees' lifelong learning?
With the job market's current complexity and volatility, it is virtually impossible to progress professionally without regular retraining and refreshing. Companies too should step up and respond to this demand. Investing in their staff's retraining is an undertaking that is beneficial, effective and socially responsible. In this respect, if we understand employability to mean people's ability to adapt to changes in the economic environment, when it is put at the service of organizations, this ability to adapt becomes a source of competitiveness.
Currently, about 5,000 people and over a hundred companies have registered for the online job fair. What is your impression so far?
We are very happy with the positive response that this pilot initiative has received from companies. And very happy as well with the response from students and graduates, as they are what the fair is all about.
The list of participating companies includes TMB, Damm, DKV Seguros, Fundación Randstad, Fundació Prevent, the Catalan Tourist Board, the Spanish Inland Revenue, Caixabank Silk, Everis, Cuatrecasas, Fundació Pere Tarrés, Brico Depot, KPMG, Schneider Electric, Telefónica, Adobe, Barcelona Activa and Indra.
Within the fair's framework, the 5,000-plus people who have registered will find an interface between supply and demand, with more than a hundred stands where companies will publish their openings. All of them will be able to arrange interviews or send their skills profiles to these organizations. I would also highlight that our student profile is highly valued by employers because it offers digital, organizational and collaborative skills that are closely aligned with current needs.
In addition to the job vacancies, you have also organized more than 50 talks. What areas will they touch on?
We are a university and, as such, we offer a twofold added value: on one hand, our ability to generate and share knowledge; on the other hand, our ability to mobilize our community, which stands out for being dynamic and engaged. That is why we decided from the beginning that the fair also had to be a space for sharing knowledge about competitiveness and employability. In the end, we have produced a programme with more than 50 expert voices who represent the different knowledge nodes that make up our ecosystem. These experts will talk about employability-enhancing skills, current keys to competitiveness, new career opportunities, entrepreneurship or research as an employment option.