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Employability, Enterprise, and Entrepreneurship: Solving Wicked Problems 

31 Jan 2022 | Stuart Norton, Andy Penaluna Stuart Norton and Andy Penaluna introduce the 2022 Advance HE Employability Case Study Compendium.

As part of our Connect Benefit Series for 2021-22, our Student Success longitudinal project focuses on embedding employability in higher education as well as access, retention, attainment and progression and flexible learning. Find out more about Student Success  

Advance HE has published the third Case Study Compendium on Employability, 3 Es for Wicked Problems: Employability, Enterprise, and Entrepreneurship: Solving Wicked Problems. The editors, Stuart Norton and Andy Penaluna, introduce the collection.  

“This collection of case studies represents the culmination of a series of discussions in uncertain times – in an unprecedented environment. Regardless of specialism or discipline, we have all had to deal with unexpected contexts such as remote learning, remote assessment and remote feedback to our students. What we previously took for granted can no longer be relied upon, and what we previously valued in student outcomes is once again being questioned.   

April 2021 hosted the annual Advance HE Employability Symposium. This year the event focused upon ‘Employability, Enterprise, and Entrepreneurship: Solving Wicked Problems.’ The symposium captured some first insights, and to build on these, we have brought together a range of cutting-edge examples of how sustainable and innovative pedagogies can be delivered in higher education, at school, faculty/college and/or institutional levels in this third edition of the Advance HE Employability Case Study Compendium.   

As with any wicked problem, context is key. As the pandemic dictated our day-to-day norms, time to think and reflect often played second fiddle. This is not where we planned to be, it is where we have found ourselves. The same can be said for our students, whose world is changing beyond recognition. So, in order to find solutions we need to understand where we are, what innovations are taking place and what it could mean for the sector.   

Solving wicked problems isn’t easy; there aren’t simple answers or a one-size-fits-all solution. However, engaging with wicked problems is a powerful way of identifying and addressing a range of challenges. The symposium purposefully took a broad-based view of wicked problems, allowing colleagues to define and include a range of issues, either at a macro level or through a specific lens. We are fortunate enough to have gathered some excellent insights to share with the sector, ones that will enable us to think ahead and hopefully provide the basis of new questions as well as potential next steps.  

As we enter 2022 there are rays of light appearing. For example, Charlie Ball (of JISC’s Labour Market Intelligence) suggests that whilst the Omicron variant of Covid-19 is putting a dent in it, the skilled labour market is recovering. Not least because many professionals have decided to retire. He further suggests that hybrid working is here to stay, so adaptability and being able to work within flexible working scenarios will increasingly become an employer demand.   

This insight aligns with many of our contributor’s views on what may be coming next, and this in turn may help us to navigate what to many will be a new evaluative environment – where new questions arise. For example, if we only test to the known answers, how do we know if our students have the capability to challenge norms and see alternative perspectives? How can we ensure that they demonstrate the flexibility and adaptability required if we only offer long-term projects or assignments where nothing changes?   

Contrary to some perceptions, as this collection illustrates, not all innovations have been reactive but more the result of insights, associated foresight and visioning skills, seeing perceived challenges as considerable opportunities. The reader will find fabulous examples of agility and innovative approaches to enhancing employability at this time that have enabled students to continue to learn. The Advance HE employability case study series of 2020, 2021, and this collection puts the spotlight on a range of excellent work already taking place within and across the sector, from socially distanced placements to delivering authentic assessment within a pandemic.     

While we have presented the cases under the broad banners of Interdisciplinarity, Subject or Discipline Focused and Virtual Solution Finding, we could have easily presented them under different headings and recategorised them, as there is so much overlap. What binds them is their propensity for helping the sector to find solutions in a world of wicked problems. These are shared with the ultimate aim of supporting the sector so that we can enable students to become better citizens, people, leaders, thinkers, catalysts, educators, influencers, and advocates; recognising the importance of civil and civic duty alongside economic development and return, and ensuring that graduates that can adapt to whatever the future holds, whether that be at an individual or at a societal level. ”  


Download 3 Es for Wicked Problems: Employability, Enterprise, and Entrepreneurship:  

Solving Wicked Problems 

Stuart is a Senior Adviser in Learning and Teaching for Advance HE and is leading the review and update of the Student Success Framework series. Stuart has worked in Academia since 2003 and joined Advance HE in 2016. Stuart has supported a range of institutions, discipline communities and individual academic and professional services staff through a variety of direct events and consultancy interventions. Stuart’s role is diverse and transitions across the core thematic areas of student success, where he takes a keen role in supporting sector-wide learning and teaching policy. Follow him on Twitter: @S_J_Norton  

Andy Penaluna is Professor Emeritus at University of Wales Trinity Saint David. He has been contributing to Advance HE’s work on Enterprise, Entrepreneurship and Employability for over 12 years and has contributed to over 50 countries’ initiatives in entrepreneurial education. His clients include the UN, EU Joint Research centre and the OECD. He helped to develop the EntreComp Framework and is the Chair of QAA’s Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Group and also helped to write the new Quality Code.  

The Advance HE Employability Symposium 2022  

Our fifth employability symposium was held on 26 April and provided a space to discuss and share latest practices in developing graduates for successful trajectories beyond university.  

Find out more about our programmes and events portfolio.

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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