Questions asked in our “Preparing for Employability in a Digital Age” webinar

We had a large number of participants in our Webinar on the 25 January and there were many questions asked – we were not able to respond to all of them in the time available, so I’ve put together some brief responses to the questions asked in the text-chat and if anyone would like to add additional responses, please do so by replying to this post (see below):

Q: At what level in HE you start to introduce the employability skills concepts?

A: All the good practice seems to indicate that employability development should commence at the beginning of a student’s journey – this could even include the time between enrolment through to induction and programme start. This will help prepare students for engaging with employers in e.g. placements and other employer-related activities during programmes.

Q: Are any UK HEs using the Co-Curricular Record model that seems so popular in North America? A transcript of campus engagement…on paper.

A: A range of universities have already developed HEAR (Higher Education Achievement Reports) records for students where section 6.1 covers achievements beyond the normal curricula and have set-up processes for validating such achievements and providing a record for students to show to employers. Some of these are in electronic format. Further info can be found at the Centre for Recording Achievement. I am working on a project with Jisc investigating how such electronic HEAR records can be used in more formative approaches.

I am also very keen to encourage greater collaboration between employers, HE and FE in matchmaking student projects to employer problems/needs and one of our report’s recommendations is to set an online network up to facilitate this type of collaboration.

Q: Can you expand on how to use LinkedIn cleverly and subtly?

A: I found in the research that the training given to students in using networks such as LinkedIn can be rather passive and defensive focusing on e.g. digital safety/identity. Whilst these are important, I believe it is necessary to support students in proactively engaging with employers, alumni, employer/professional bodies etc through more than just creating a profile e.g. by using such networks to actively engage alumni with mentoring students and using LinkedIn groups to engage with new topics and people world-wide.

Q: How much differentiation do you see in the themes discussed between Undergraduate and Postgraduate needs? Do you think they need separate treatment or can these ideas be incorporated across programmes, in your view?

A: In the report research, we did mostly concentrate on UG study so I perhaps am not best qualified to answer this question – I would like to throw it open for responses. My instincts would say that ideally, employability should be developed at an UG level, leaving e.g. PGT courses to focus on specialist fields within their mostly reduced time-scales.

Q: How do we engage the students from the beginning of their studies with employability? They are so focused on “now”!

A: The good practice identified in the report highlights the importance of “connected curricula”, where employability is built into assessed learning outcomes from the beginning of the learner journey and there is greater emphasis on staged formative feedback and dialogue/action on feedback, so that students have no choice but to engage with it.

Q: How has South Devon used Digi’ badges? How were they received?

A: See the FE case studies for further info.

Q: Do you have specific examples of badge use / showcasing

A: See the Higher education (HE) and further education (FE) case studies.

Q: It still appears that we are looking at employability as a here and now dilemma rather than a cyclic generational journey. Does your Life long journey have appreciation for the school to college to University to work to an opportunity provider and parent? If so how can that be tracked from a person perspective?

A: The report does emphasise the need for developing “lifelong employability”, rather than just focusing on students gaining jobs on graduation – recognising that students will have to continually adapt to changing employer needs and demands throughout their careers. I do agree with the sentiments expressed that this even needs to start at school and FE and ideally with students provided with “lifelong” resources to help record their formal achievements and help them showcase their work and skills. We do not have this yet and I know Jisc are looking into this area.

Q: Anyone have any ideas about getting students engaged when they are reluctant to engage with employability issues. Sometimes students don’t take employability skills seriously and don’t see employability modules as a valid part of their degree.

A: I have a similar answer to the one above about engaging students by embedding employability into assessed learning outcomes, curricula activities and staged formative feedback. Part of this is also about getting students to articulate the employability learning outcomes in their own language at the beginning of programmes and discussing these, so that they begin to fully appreciate the importance early on. It is also important to build employer engagement into programmes so that students being to realise how employers think and act.

Q: Is there any training/best practice guidance that people know of that cover creating Moodle employability courses?

A: In section 4 of the report, you will find a summary of all the HE and FE case studies and the tables highlight the technologies used – many of which include Moodle. I would suggest browsing these case studies for details of good practices.

Q: Do you manage students while they’re on placement to direct their development, or prepare them beforehand?

A: Good practice seems to indicate the importance of preparing students for placements beforehand and also providing mentoring and support. In my own experience, it is also important to “mentor” employers as they do not always know how best to supervise and support students. I have also found it is important to persuade employers to “stretch” students and to provide meaningful opportunities e.g. to solve real-work problems, whilst at the same time communicating to listen out for problems.

It is also worth looking at the Univ Nottingham vignette in the FE case studies for info about using portfolios to support placement activities.


2 thoughts on “Questions asked in our “Preparing for Employability in a Digital Age” webinar

  1. Geoff Rebbeck

    Reflections on the FE world following our Presentation and questions

    I was struck by one reference to the move from E portfolios to B-portfolios (blogging portfolios). I think this stems from a wider issue regarding the personalised nature of the portfolio. There are bound to be as many types of portfolio as there are users who fashion them for their own purposes. In FE we already have examples of private, social, showcase, mapping and reflective portfolios. It stems from the fact that you can’t have the word ‘standard’ and ‘personal’ in the same sentence when it comes to education. So whilst we might have one VLE, we will have many types of portfolio, What holds this seemingly fragmenting technology pattern together are the enduring varies of what constitute effective teaching and learning. With the, it all makes sense.

    Several correspondents highlighted at what point these ‘softer skills’ need to be brought into learning. Whatever the challenges younger FE students take on in a course, they are having to make a fairly rapid journey from the school mindset they arrive to a work-ready mindset. Whilst not having a good record so far in capturing these soft skills they are very much to the fore of what FE is about and one of the areas we highlight we need to do better at helping students demonstrate.
    Consequently in my view it’s perfectly acceptable for students to learn to capture, Marshall present their own understanding at an early age because this will now be lifelong learning and living skill.

    Several mentions were made of the importance of e-safety and ‘netiquette’ to be taught matters and this is absolutely right when it comes to helping students present themselves on-line which is itself becoming a crucial skill. I think e-safety has now been replaced by a more ambitious idea of risk-management because we need to teach people to be safe rather than to instruct or exclude them as if they won’t or don’t confront these issues in their private lives or work-life after college. Perhaps we have a generation of students who come to FE who might be ‘tech savvy’ in the range of technology used but not ‘digitally literate’ in that they have underdeveloped idea how to use technology for fun of learning, to present themselves to the world online, to organise their personal and private lives, to reach greater depths of learning and generally be able to control it rather than technology controlling them.

    There were some queries of systemic teaching of employability skills and we referred to our South Devon College Case Study. This use of Moodle started with (and is still supported by) asking employers in the College other contact with them what they would want to see as a set of characteristics students can show when it comes to employability skills. Interestingly it also has the effect of making employability skills front and centre as an issue of importance as regards students’ FE experiences.

    We thought hard in our Report about the meaning of ‘employability’ rather than ‘employment’ or an even more narrow idea of simply being ‘work-ready’. It would be quite unacceptable for students to be prepared for some job, any job when they leave FE because the changing nature of the world of work need skills that come under transfer ability and these are at least one layer back from a single set of vocational skills. It is, for example nothing to teach the skills of a craftsman bricklayer, but the ability to deal with customers (self-employment). acquire other trades, use technology design for construction and demonstrating reliability are just as valuable. Consequently students need to be developing these personal attributes and attitudes from the outset and colleges really should be advertising this as part of any learning experience.

    Perhaps beyond all of this we also need to help students prepare for active citizenship and working lives whatever they might look like.

  2. Dave Kilmartin

    Education’s focus on content (the what and the how) can often preclude the questions of who and why – questions so central to the personal career journey of all of us. The way in which we will use and deploy the knowledge and hard skills developed through education are, consciously or indeed unconsciously, filtered through the questions of the why and who of career and personal meaning and identity. After all we all want fulfilling careers and lives. The concept of ‘lifelong employability’, using innovative technologies, offers a very real opportunity to engage us more formally in the why and the who. This I believe has a genuine capacity to impact students attitudinal disposition and consequent level of effort in the what and how questions of content. This can in turn affect grades, retention and more fundamentally their journey towards a meaningful career.


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