Católica Porto Business School Prepares Student Soft Skills for the Workplace

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Today, so-called soft skills, such as critical and systemic thinking, teamwork and communication, presentation skills, and more are all necessary for the graduates to successfully transition from the university to the workplace. Though they are vital, it is rather challenging for the students to develop their soft skills before they graduate. To address this challenge and equip students with relevant competencies for the labor market, Católica Porto Business School formed Career and Development Office (initially Known as Strategic Leadership Hub). 

What is the Career and Development Office?

The Career and Development Office is an organization for prospective and current students as well as alumni of Católica Porto Business School to utilize and develop soft skills through projects, mentor relationships, and more. It is clear, this School noticed the gap between what the labour market needed and their current graduates’ skills. Therefore, the Career and Development Office is funded and partnered by Católica Porto Business School as well as numerous companies to maximize their success rate and communication line between university and industry.

The corporate connections are relevant across all of the School’s departments and education levels. Each year the Career and Development Office contacts the partner companies in order to explore the most suitable initiatives according to their needs, goals and availability. This systematic contact leads to the development of customised arrangements with each company, each academic year.

What is truly unique about this Career and Development Office is how it focuses on students as young as thirteen before they even reach college level education. These prospective students are given the opportunity to attend the speakers’ sessions and even participate in specially designed Young Enterprise Program. The program offers the students to propose a business model for a company in need – which will further be expected to become a main partner for the School. Already from the age of thirteen, the program offers an opportunity to exercise in teamwork, communication, and networking before even entering a university. Once attending a university there is a more rigorous trilogy of soft skill development for students.

University Educational Programmes

This trilogy is a model of three projects focusing on: critical thinking (Project 1), communication and teamwork (Project 2), and systemic thinking (Phase 3). The result is a publicly open presentation attended by corporate representatives in addition to students and faculty.

The School is committed to developing the transferable skills required for students to be high-quality professionals and effective leaders in a globalised, competitive and changing environment. The School has a Coaching Programme, which is available for undergraduates and masters. The key element of this programme is to encourage each student to set individual goals and strategies, to achieve them in order to improve the transferable skills. Students establish their own goals in order to achieve personal and professional development. Coaching helps students to answer questions such as: “Where am I?” and “Where am I going?” This programme can also provide support in terms of academic choices like optional courses, mobility programmes (Erasmus and summer schools), and extracurricular activities. It can also help to deal with anxiety, depression and other personal issues that affect the students’ wellbeing.

Undergraduates and Master students continue to refine their soft skills through mentoring programs, speed interviews, skills assessments, and more. Leading to the last category of participants, the alumni. While Executive Education students will focus on their personal and professional development more so, though skills refinement, career counseling, and networking. Executive Education programs target job placement with career fairs and panel discussions.

Alumni are invited to come back to take part in these numerous career fairs and speed interviews as well as to gain stronger soft skills and business connections. However, this group also will work together to plan annual meetings and events. In some cases, they will also return as jury panelists and mentors themselves.

In result, the School had 139 company representatives in Project courses evaluating final public presentations in the last three academy years, 360 mentees and 194 mentors were involved in the mentoring programme during its 7 editions, 888 speed interviews were conducted by company representatives, and more.

Results and Impacts

In fact, a high number of graduates from Católica Porto Business School can find a job within 10 months of graduation, some of them even before finishing the graduation.In order to enhance the employability, a number of real-world contact opportunities with recruiters are promoted. This takes place in the context of the career coaching process where the contact is arranged according to each student’s needs or through the organisation of various career events.

The importance of corporate connections for Católica Porto Business School is reflected in its mission, as one of its core ideas is to anticipate “organisations’ future needs and promoting the development of scientific and applied knowledge”.  Going into the future, the School still has plans to evolve itself continually through research projects designed to find out what companies will need in the future. This way it can remain as up-to-date as possible since the results will be implemented in the curriculum.

Exciting last factor remains, initiatives like the coaching and mentoring program itself can be easily transferable across the world. What universities need is a knowledgeable staff and fully committed students who hope to do well in the workplace post-graduation. However, with the Career and Development Office the students can enter the workforce with refined, soft skills corporate connections and networks.