September 2011

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Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) World of Work (WoW®) Programme – A Globally Relevant Strategic Approach

Terry Dray - Director LJMU Graduate Advancement and Employer Engagement

LJMU has over 24,000 students. The average age of undergraduates when they begin their degree course is 25; 45% of LJMU's students are local and over 50% are from low income families.

Why employability matters

WoW® is LJMUs' response to both a series of influential reports advocating the need for universities to take more seriously the employability of students for the benefit of the local, regional and national economies, and to detailed conversations with employers with whom we have a relationship. We're also very aware of the need to provide positive outcomes for our students, who are investing heavily in their education. Additionally, we want to differentiate LJMU and we believe that our approach is a very attractive one for potential students.

"We took the bold step of undertaking a fundamental review of Higher Education in a global context – looking at what is required of us by our students and our business partners and being prepared to change fundamentally what we and others have simply continued to do for years. What we have done is demanding and challenges the current status quo in Higher Education but a strategic change of direction was essential to ensure our graduates have the necessary education and skills to succeed in an increasingly competitive global economy. A key ingredient of our new strategic approach is the advice and backing that we receive from the members of our Advisory Board. This panel, not the University, has and will continue to determine the WoW® skills, ensuring that they match the requirements of today's knowledge economy." Professor Michael Brown CBE, DL, Chief Executive and Vice-Chancellor, LJMU.

WoW® is at the very centre of the strategic agenda and can be summarised as 'Connecting both students and staff more closely to the Work of Work (WoW®)'. It involves the whole of the University and employer partners, who are working in partnership to define and verify world of work skills.

WoW® is a voluntary process for students apart from the self-awareness statement which will be integrated into all courses from 2012. At the end of the 2010/11 year over 5,000 students had voluntarily registered for the WoW® skills certificate.

WoW® is designed, developed and delivered with employer partners and means that the university's undergraduate degree portfolio now has explicit work related learning and the development of eight Graduate Skills embedded within all 350 programmes. Uniquely, students are also encouraged to recognise and develop a set of higher level employer specified ‘World of Work' or WoW® Skills, contained within 3 themes: Self Awareness, Organisational Awareness and the ability to Make Things Happen, that give them the edge in the demanding graduate market.

WoW® enables individual students to identify, develop and seek verification for these skills via the WoW® skills certificate; the cachet for students and employers is that it is employers themselves who are judging whether these have been achieved because it is an employer, trained by the GDC, who conducts the final verification interview.

LJMU has invested in a purpose built Graduate Development Centre (GDC) which is a training and development facility set in the heart of Liverpool's business district. This is the hub for interactions with employers and a delivery space for "Ready for Work" job search and transition sessions and WoW® skills development programmes.

This new approach to higher education and employer engagement has gained the backing of many students, colleagues, employers and policy makers. WoW® is an excellent practice case study for developing employability skills in higher education in:


Early indications are encouraging. The performance of LJMU graduate leavers from 2010 showed increases in graduate level jobs, increases in the number employed generally and a decrease in unemployment.

In 2010/11:

  • 96% of students would recommend GDC WoW® sessions to a friend
  • 98% agreed GDC WoW sessions were relevant and well delivered
  • 89% were more confident about managing their future and moving their career forward

Graduate Accelerator Programme (GAP) for Unemployed Graduates

LJMU's European Social Fund supported free one week intensive programme is based at the GDC and includes:

  • A unique online employability skills audit
  • Gap analysis of skills and attributes
  • Development of an action plan
  • Insights into occupations and sectors
  • Job hunting techniques
  • Project management
  • Practice interview to improve technique

Delivered by experienced trainers, careers advisers and industry professionals GAP receives consistently positive feedback.

The WoW® Skills Certificate in Malaysia: A Partnership Model

The GDC is currently funded by the Malaysian Ministry of Higher Education to work with Universiti Teknologi Mara (University of Technology), Malaysia's largest public university, to run a pilot programme to introduce the WoW skills certificate. Research by the GDC into the employability skill preferences of Malaysian employers showed clearly that the WoW skills model was highly relevant to the Malaysian Economy and graduate recruiters. A group of Malaysian employers is helping to develop and deliver the pilot and includes HSBC, GlaxoSmithKline, The Institute of Chartered Accountants, Deloitte, Shell and Crowne Plaza etc. There is interest from other Malaysian universities.

Like the UK, Malaysia needs a graduate talent pipeline to produce highly employable graduates fit for a knowledge economy. The WoW® Programme and the certificate process demands that students reflect on their work-related skills and competence and that they can confidently articulate to an employer interviewer that they have the necessary evidence to be an asset.

The GDC has European Social Fund support to share with other universities in the North West of England and within Europe information and best practice on enhancing the employability of students and graduates. Recently I was pleased to accept invitations to meet colleagues at the University of Girona and at the AQU in Barcelona to discuss the WoW® Programme and share ideas. Graduate employability is a challenge for us all. I am very keen to work collaboratively with colleagues in Catalonia and elsewhere in Spain. We have received funding support to share our model in the USA, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia. Who knows what might be possible in Catalonia?


Generalitat de Catalunya

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© 2011 AQU Catalunya - Legal number B-21.910-2008