Over the last month I’ve talked to many people in universities who are involved in some way with student employability skills (or capabilities?) and attributes. In the post prior to this one, Geoff looks at categorising skills and talks about the “new skill on the block” – entrepreneurial or enterprise skills and I agree – this is a very important one – which highlights that such skills can be a moving feast and there is often wide variation in views amongst employers and employer bodies (& even within employers).
I wonder if there is an overarching student employability capability (& possibly attributes) that forms a metaphorical umbrella to transferable skills – let’s call it lifelong employability – a capability for students to take greater “ownership” of how they strategise and plan their development to gain their employment of (informed) choice and, in particular, places emphasis on students to research what the current skills priorities are in their targeted sectors and employers, not just when they graduate, but throughout their careers.
This approach would require students to horizon scan/seek intelligence on jobs/employers/careers (and not just rely on nuggets of information fed from careers departments), identify what types of employment match-up to their aspirations, goals, needs and values, research what skills are currently being prioritised, critically evaluate their own capabilities and attributes (with support from peers and mentors) and plan (& record) development of their personal, social and professional capabilities to match those prioritised by their targeted employers e.g. through research, self-diagnostics tools, e-learning, creative problem-solving and experiential learning. A further important part of the mix is the capability for students to articulate and communicate their skills and attributes to employers (to align with what each employer is looking for and uniquely position them for a specific role) and to effectively engage with and influence them.
All this can then help students to better make decisions on their careers throughout their careers (when they are not supported by a careers department) – not just when they graduate. This “taking ownership” aligns with the trend for curricula to adopt student self-directed learning/assessment approaches and therefore brings together the “self-directed” concept for both lifelong learning and lifelong employability.