Date: Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Writing Skills of Graduates Improve Chances of Finding Employment and Advancing in the Workplace.

Though an inability to communicate well to a variety of audiences will not get a new recruit fired, says Damien Clancy, Managing Director at RUSAL Auginish Alumina, Ltd., but “continued failure [to do so] will certainly be career limiting”.

Director Clancy was speaking at the Second National Symposium on Academic Writing at UL, where Professor Paul McCutcheon, UL’s Vice President Academic and Registrar lauded the Regional Writing Centre’s commitment to enhancing graduate attributes and competencies through writing , thereby increasing graduate’s capacity to respond to the challenges they face in their professional careers.

The symposium was hosted (yesterday?) by the University of Limerick Regional Writing Centre under the auspices of UL’s Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL).

There are plenty of statistics to indicate that there is a lack of employer satisfaction in graduate’s ability, and a lack of graduate confidence in their own ability, to write and communicate well. In fact, as recently as October of 2011, it was reported that the percentage of employers perceiving a lack of communication skills among new graduates had risen by 2 per cent over the previous year, rising from 53.4 to 55.4 per cent.

Even more troubling, the percentage of employers concerned with graduate’s writing skills has jumped nearly 10 per cent—yet, it is not an Irish problem. A separate survey had recently found that only six out of 79 companies thought Irish graduates performed worse than graduates from other countries.

Professor Don Barry, University of Limerick President, in a recent Irish Times article cited a contemporary US survey by ManPower Group. Speaking about the situation in the US, the survey indicated that 52 per cent of companies are having difficulty finding appropriate recruits, at a time when unemployment is at 9 per cent. The survey found a strong link between this reluctance to hire and a “lack of ‘hard’ job skills or technical skills”.

Graduate Ireland considers writing skills to be a hard skill and lists writing as “the number one area in need of improvement, with over 44 per cent of [Irish] employers stating a shortfall in this area.”

At the National Symposium at UL, Damien Clancy states that this is why Aughinish Alumina puts “strong report writing and presentation skills” on the first line of their Job Competencies for Engineers.

Aside from Damien Clancy, symposium speakers included Sally Mitchell of the Thinking, Writing programme and Guy Westwell from Queen Mary, University of London; Trevor Day, Writing Consultant with the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Office at Bath University, England; Ciara O’Farrell, Senior Academic Developer, Centre for Academic Practice and eLearning at Trinity College, Dublin; and Sarah Moore, Associate Vice-President and Dean of Teaching and Learning, University of Limerick.

The Symposium enquires into the role of third-level education in preparing writers for the workplace and beyond, and presents ways in which real engagement with writing can be stimulated among our students.

Sixty delegates attended from third-level institutes of education from throughout Ireland including NUI Galway, NUI Maynooth, TCD, UCD, IT Sligo and many in attendance from the immediate region. The symposium generated lively debate and inspired possibilities, but most importantly for the Regional Writing Centre at UL, served to further perpetuate an on-going discussion about writing and the importance to writing to learners in third-level and beyond.


Keynote Speakers

  • Damien Clancy, Managing Director of RUSAL Aughinish Alumina Ltd. Damien speaks on "Our Experience of Graduate Report Writing"


  • Sally Mitchell (Thinking Writing, Library and Employability Directorate) and Dr. Guy Westwell (School of Languages, Linguistics and Film), Queen Mary, University of London. Sally and Guy speak on "Thinking Writing and the Writing Machine"


  • Dr. Trevor Day, Writing Consultant, Learning and Teaching Enhancement Office, University of Bath. Trevor speaks on "Embedding Writing Development in STEM Disciplines: from theory to practice".


  • Dr Ciara O'Farrell, Senior Academic Developer, Centre for Academic Practice and eLearning, Trinity College Dublin. Ciara speaks on "Embedding writing in curriculum design and beyond" 


  • Professor Sarah Moore, Associate Vice-President, University of Limerick. Sarah speaks on "The cognitive and affective importance of academic writing: Putting writing at the heart of the development of graduate attributes at UL"