Wisdom Wednesday: the Importance of Skills-Infused Education

skillsgradesThe Importance of Skills-Based Education

by Zareen Khan, University of Bradford Student:  uk.linkedin.com/in/zareenk


The age long debate of skills based knowledge versus grades based knowledge has moulded the student body into two essential categories: those who strive hard to find the right balance between gaining employability skills and maintaining a certain standard of grades to those who believe a distinction per essay will keep the unemployment at bay. For arguments sake I will ignore the third category: those who care about neither of these and see University as a ‘waste of time’ or approach modules with ‘when will I ever use this?’

I personally have moved from the ‘all about the grades’ category to the now more balanced ‘skills and knowledge’ category. The transition process was nothing short of a Bollywood movie climax scene for me – with multiple shocks and an infuriatingly slow pace of realisation as I reached my epiphany: good grades alone do not land you a job in the real world.

This epiphany came when applying for part time jobs in my first year; I had nothing to fill a CV. Having decided that there’s only so much space you can fill by increasing the font and writing in detail about each module mark, I embarked on rebuilding my trajectory to gain more employment based skills and experiences. My first step was to collect content for my CV by gaining job experiences, for which I subscribed to the careers vacancies alert. Within a few weeks my inbox was filled with suitable vacancies and after a few applications, I finally landed some jobs. To aid with these applications, the careers CV, cover letter and application guide proved to be a good source of help, giving me the correct format and language needed to create an effective ones.

A personal appointment with a careers counsellor to specifically analyse my CV was an eye opener. This taught me minute details which I had never considered before, such as specific positive words and phrases that could highlight my experiences better and the tactical placement of certain sections of my CV that would keep the more flattering bits of information in front. Albeit they all seemed obvious adjustments, as according to a recent study, employers only spend 7 seconds looking through a CV, however, these were tips that I would not have thought of myself without the appropriate guidance.

As my applications increased and CV improved I began getting offers and through to interviews. This stage, as I learned from experience, was not a simple tête-à-tête over tea – but a choreographed art that I needed to master. Of course there were certain interviews which were a mere review of one’s already submitted CV, but for the real important jobs that could prove to be the star of your CV – I had to face extensively challenging interviews that left my intellect drained after.

Naturally I utilised every help available to be to prepare me as much as possible. The careers services offered me different levels of guidance, starting from their general interview guide to a more thorough 45 minute mock interview. The latter I found especially enlightening as the process was designed so each answer of mine was critically evaluated and micromanaged for improvement by the advisor. This not only strengthened my answers but also gave me possible content to further elaborate them while boosting my confidence. During this process I was also introduced to an online interview recorder that they offer for recording at home and getting feedback.

Now half way through my second year, seven jobs and an offer for placement next year later, I can honestly say I would not have gained a substantial amount of knowledge if I had focused just on achieving grades. This is definitely not to say that one should only allot time to work and keep academics on the side line, however, finding the right balance between the two is necessary. Skills like team work, initiation, leadership and communication need to be acquired to utilise the education in real world work places. Not that these cannot be gained from pure academic group work only, but ask yourself this – when a manager gives a pep talk and uses interpersonal skills with his employees, how much of it comes from a course module he took and how much from his versatile work experience?


Zareen is a student at the University of Bradford, studying for a Bsc in Economics and International Economics. If you would also like to utilise the Careers Service in a similar manner, you can contact us at http://www.brad.ac.uk/careers/contact-us/.