Building and embedding employability skills, values, behaviours and attributes requires that higher education courses offer opportunities to acquire and practice the skills through placement and extracurricular activities. This creates pressures for education providers, requiring a re-thinking of how the courses are designed and delivered and how to ensure students have the required skills at exit. This can be perceived as onerous and difficult to achieve, however, in the past few years, there have been a wide range of examples of embedding employability in the curriculum from assessment in modules to programme level that have provided a pathway for providers to increase the practice of employability, as highlighted through compendiums such as this series.
The best interventions require a re-thinking of the pedagogies used in and out of the classroom framed with a future look on how the knowledge and skills will be used in employment. This is often referred to as authenticity; and the most effective way to provide that experience in education is through equal active participation of all the members of the learning community.
Case studies from across the sector
In Contemporary Practices and Initiatives in Employability we present here a collection of novel examples from across the sector of how sustainable and innovative pedagogies can be used in the delivery of higher education courses that will equip students with the skills needed after graduation.
While we have presented the cases under the broad banners of career preparation, knowledge and soft skills and wider context, we could have easily presented them under different headings and re-categorised them.
Additional strong themes from the Employability Symposium 2022, which will undoubtedly be picked up on throughout these submissions, include inclusivity and equitable opportunities, in particular throughout the career preparation section. Further sub-themes include interdisciplinary, and sustainability.
There will be a range of overlap with differing themes, but what binds them together is their propensity for helping the sector to find solutions to enhancing employability.
One other recurrent theme through the case studies is the need for authenticity of the experience provided. This is an essential ingredient that ensures students appreciate how the practice of skills in an educational environment can be translated into employment practices.
Another aspect related to authenticity covered in the case studies is co-creation with students and prospective employers. This provides a sense of reality and ownership that is highly valued by all the participants, giving a more fulfilling experience.
We hope the case studies support the academic community with the implementation of employability skills in higher education. A final challenge remains to give employability the place it deserves in education and ensure such initiatives are scalable. For this to happen, a rebranding of ‘skills’ is necessary to shift the perception from the learning community that skills are less important than knowledge and initiatives need to be appropriately resourced.
The employment sector already recognised that skills are essential to succeed in the work environment, it is time that we value the importance and relevance of developing the broad notion of professional skills, including values, to make wise decisions in life through education.
Advance HE members can download A Case Study Compendium: Contemporary Practices and Initiatives in Employability Edited by Stuart Norton and Maria Romero-González here
Stuart Nortton is Senior Consultant (Education) at Advance HE and is leading the review and update of the Student Success Framework series.
Dr Maria Romero-González is Director of Education for the School of Engineering and Materials Science at Queen Mary University of London, and Director of Learning Development at the Queen Mary Engineering School in Xi'an, China.
Employability Symposium 2023
In 2023, our focus is Going Forward Together. Join us at the Employability Symposium 2023 as we bring people together to support professional development. Learn more: Employability Symposium 2023: Lighting the Labyrinth: Enhancing Student Success through the 3Es