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Developing employability skills from an experiential learning residential

03 Mar 2021 | Dr Victoria Jackson and Vicki OBrien In the fifth blog in our series on employability Dr Victoria Jackson and Vicki O'Brien, Course Leaders for MBA with Professional Practice at the University of Central Lancashire, share their findings from an experiential learning residential.

The residential

Three days away in the rural English countryside is the backdrop for the MBA residential. Newly arrived Indian students are whisked away to a beautiful national park to engage in a series of team-building activities and business simulations as part of a leadership development exercise. Students are tasked with a range of outdoor challenges, role plays and business games – sometimes in extreme wet weather conditions, it is England after all!

Students are accompanied by academics from the school for the duration of the residential, although staff are observers to the activities, they join students for break times and mealtimes. This set-up facilitates the building of a rapport between teaching staff and students. Peer relationships are also formed during this weekend, with students finding and exploring friendships in a safe environment. The outputs of the weekend are quite impressive given the short duration of this experiential learning residential.

Overall lesson

The main message from this research is that learning can take place in a variety of environments, not just the classroom.

This experiential learning residential has helped to build key employability skills, develop self-confidence and create friendships and communities of peer support. The benefits of the residential are wide reaching considering this is only is only a three-day exercise.

The research

Students from four MBA cohorts completed a short questionnaire, distributed in July 2020, seeking their views on their employability development whilst on the residential.  A total of 182 students responded to the questionnaire, overall students felt that the residential had helped them to develop key employability skills and to better understand themselves through self-reflection. 

Our questionnaire was based on the Employability Development Profile (originally created by Sewell and Dacre-Pool in 2010) due to the prominence that this framework places on emotional intelligence.

Building key employability skills - Self confidence

A significant finding from the research reveals that the residential helped to increase students’ confidence in themselves.

"Before my residential I was somewhat timid and shy, but after the residential I have gained confidence in my skills and learnt that skills can be developed with practice and the feedback was very helpful to understand from expert point of view." - Respondent 1.

89% of students reported that their confidence was developed well or superbly through the residential activities.

Building key employability skills – Emotional Intelligence

Another key finding from the research was the development of emotional intelligence in students whilst on residential. 77% of respondents felt the residential had developed their emotional intelligence well or superbly.

"Residential helped me about being empathetic and I got to know that individuals have different feelings and emotions." - Respondent 2.

Have your say?

What are you doing to develop international students’ employability in your institution?


Dr Victoria Jackson and Vicki O'Brien are Course Leaders for the MBA with professional placement at the University of Central Lancashire. They both teach on the MBA programme but also have a special interest in the areas of student experience, employability enhancement and curriculum development.

To find out more about UCLA's MBA residential and its impact, download the 'Employability: breaking the mould' case study compendium, which brings together practices from across the sector to embedding employability in student learning.

Book your place on our Employability Symposium 2021: 3Es for Wicked Problems, 09:30-16:30, Thursday 22 April 2021.

Find out more about Advance HE's work to support institutions prepare graduates for life beyond higher education through effectively embedding employability both in the curriculum and within extra-curricular provision.

We feel it is important for voices to be heard to stimulate debate and share good practice. Blogs on our website are the views of the author and don’t necessarily represent those of Advance HE.

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