Bridge the Skills Gap – The Student Perspective

September 23, 2020
Bridge the Skills Gap – The Student Perspective

©️ Photo credit: Fergus Burnett, Imperial College London, 2020

Following the launch of The Scale Factor on 17th September, Scale Space is bringing together postgraduate students and Imperial College Business School alumni for a live discussion on their current job opportunities and how scaling companies might hold the key for closing the UK skills gap.

We caught up with Rhea Singhla, a recent MBA graduate from Imperial College Business School and Co-Founder at e-Novus, a virtual events agency connecting universities and businesses to generate innovation, to get a preview of how the workshop discussion is set to shape up later this week:


What do you think is causing the skills gap in the UK?
Businesses are having a hard time matching talent to the appropriate jobs, so they end up hiring people under qualified, overqualified, or someone that only looks good on paper, but doesn’t have the appropriate soft skills to deliver. People are spending more time finding jobs than ever before as the job market is becoming more difficult, especially after the pandemic. Some corporates are also slow to adapt to new technological advancements as well as to hiring millennials who may have a different attitude towards the normal 9-5 work culture. As a result, they end up taking lots of temp jobs, or freelancing so they can live their life, travel and work.

What role do you think universities can play in helping bridge the gap?
Universities can prepare students by making them more well-rounded. For example, if I’m a scientist, why do I only learn science and math I will never use rather than learning a bit of accounting and finance so I can do my taxes or understand how mortgages and loans work?

I think universities have the opportunity to provide students with real world learning that everyone needs to use, which is precisely what Scale Space will offer students at the Business School. Additionally, universities need to connect better with business to teach students exactly what they need to get jobs.

What’s more, employers need to start thinking differently about CV criteria, as many require people to have 2-5 years of experience for a job so that doesn’t give young people an opportunity to apply even if they have the appropriate skills. Young professionals are one of the keys to closing the gap.

What are your worries about the skills gap, and current/future economic conditions? What opportunities do you see for the current market?

One of my biggest worries is that there are so many opportunities going to waste because people just don’t know about them or have this underlying fear of not being good enough. If there was a collective way for universities, business, and governments to work together- we would get so much further.

Post pandemic, it’s evident we are probably going to hit a recession as a lot of people are losing their jobs and most companies aren’t hiring. But that doesn’t mean we should be standing still. I feel that people aren’t being proactive, and the skills gap is widening as a result. As a recent alumna of the Imperial College Business School, I hear fellow peers saying they are applying for 10 jobs a day and may end up picking one they are overqualified for on less pay because they have financial dependencies and need to pay their bills.

This is, of course, completely justified but why can’t we make these opportunities for ourselves and better align with businesses? For example, I knew I wanted to get into communications/investor relations side of a financial institute. With one of the areas that has blossomed during the pandemic being media, I started working for a media fund.

I see lots of opportunities around innovation, digital disruption, and tech-based advancements. The future is so uncertain as we don’t know if there will be a second wave of the pandemic and countries are challenging their laws weekly, so it makes it hard to plan ahead as well. Nonetheless, the opportunities in these areas are there, and very apparent. I also see biggest opportunity in collaboration. Finding ways to bring people of various skillsets together inspires and accelerates innovation innovation. Imagine If all the scientists in the world could share their daily progress on the vaccine for COVID, how much further could we get?

What would encourage postgraduates and alumni to go into unknown scaling companies over established corporates? Why pick a scale-up over a company like Google?

While scaling a business, you get to wear so many different hats. Rather than having one defined role at an established corporate, you learn ten times more where the opportunities for you to grow as a person and with your skills is instantly enhanced. Also, the offset that a company does really well, and you are one of the first employers, you would be set for life. You can get promotions faster; you can have better interactions between upper level management. You can actually make a difference. Also meeting new people will give you better soft skills and become more confident.

It’s hard for people in university to pick a scale-up over established company. The security in itself is the hardest part. But in the world, we live in, are you really even secure at an established company unless you are one of the execs?

For me personally, as someone who has worked pretty much my whole life in helping companies or individuals scale up, I would always pick this route over an established corporate company. I tried that right when I finished college in 2013 and it only lasted me 1.5 years before I got bored and realised I wasn’t even using a quarter of my potential. Of course, the space isn’t for everyone, but if you are a person who is curious, loves to learn and grow, and wants to make an impact then a scaling business can be a better fit for you.

Rhea Singhla is an Imperial College FTMBA Graduate 2020. She is the outgoing President of the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Club (2019-2020); Co-founder of e-Novus, a virtual events agency aimed to connect universities to businesses to generate innovative and impactful solutions; and a strategy and business development consultant for start-ups and entrepreneurs with over seven years of experience working in finance, technology, healthcare, and non-profits.

*For anyone who missed the launch of The Scale Factor series on 17th September at Scale Space White City, you can catch the full recording on our YouTube Channel available at this link.

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