We’re still early on in our study but we thought we would share some emerging themes as we would really appreciate feedback on them – we’re sharing these on three separate blog posts and you can provide comments at the bottom of each post. We are also sharing these ideas at a workshop on the 9 March at the Jisc DigiFest in Birmingham – please come along and discuss the ideas in person.
Our first theme is: Institutions are on various points of the continuum towards student employability “maturity”
- Different visions of “maturity” and variation in approaches to developing employability skills and attributes
- Many creative uses of technology, but “embedding” remains elusive to many institutions
- Embedding employability/attributes into curricula may be “ideal”, but there are challenges
- Authentic experiences can develop skills, but depend on the degree of “authenticity” and the degree to which students learn/reflect on them and articulate them
- FE very focused on “line of sight” to employment
- “Lifelong employability” needs to be a core student capability – with students encouraged to “take ownership” early on
Different visions of “maturity” and variation in approaches to developing employability skills and attributes
At this stage, we not sure what “maturity” – when it comes to developing student employability skills – looks like and not even sure whether it is a useful concept. In fact, “maturity” probably looks different to different institutions/disciplines and perhaps the term could be applied more to the processes involved in identifying and developing student employability skills rather than on the “end-product”.
Many creative uses of technology, but “embedding” remains elusive to many institutions
We have found many really creative uses of technology e.g. using simulations, virtual reality, wikis, digital story-telling, but as with technology-enhanced learning in general, institutions typically find it difficult to roll them out in a widespread way (I’ve written about this in an article for Universities UK Efficiency Exchange – Eight lessons from the private sector for universities investing in technology-enhanced learning).
Embedding employability/attributes into curricula may be “ideal”, but there are challenges
There are however a range of institutions which are adopting an “institutional approach” to employability skills by using graduate attributes as a way of describing employability skills and requiring all programme teams to embed them in programme design/review. This approach does have the usual challenges of motivating and supporting academics to review and enhance programmes, but a big question to ask is “do all academics have the knowledge and skills to teach employability skills?
Authentic experiences can develop skills, but depend on the degree of “authenticity” and the degree to which students learn/reflect on them and articulate them
Authentic employer learning experiences are probably one of the best approaches to equipping students with employability skills but our research shows that it is not clear-cut. For instance, placements may only be short lived and some students only experience low-level tasks. At the other extreme, we have found examples of students working in cohorts with employers on real employer issues and challenges. Setting such challenging and “real” tasks for students to address must be the “Rolls Royce” of authentic learning experiences. But even then, the authentic learning experience is not the end of it – we have come across some wonderful examples of students being required to reflect on their learning experiences and draw out what they have learnt and then being able to demonstrate, record and articulate this to academics and employers. E-portfolios are an example of technology that supports this process, particularly where students use their mobile devices to capture evidence e.g. interviews with employers.
FE very focused on “line of sight” to employment
My colleague Geoff will expand on this idea – the FE environment has unique drivers and challenges distinct from HE, not least how they are regulated and financed and student employability is probably top of their priorities.
“Lifelong employability” needs to be a core student capability – with students encouraged to “take ownership” early on
I’m not going to say much about this idea here as I’ve written an earlier blog-post about this – our thesis is that rather than encouraging just “graduate employability” (& sometimes with an over-emphasis on getting jobs for students irrespective of whether they are appropriate for them), we need to equip students with a more self-directed “lifelong employability” capability – which in itself is a key employability skill. This “taking ownership” approach 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.
The blog-post three themes:
- Theme 1 (of 3) – Institutions are on various points of the continuum towards student employability “maturity”
- Theme 2 (of 3) – Technology is under exploited
- Theme 3 (of 3) – Insufficient engagement and partnership working