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The goal of employability development

10 Feb 2021 | Dr Xiaowen Gao The second in our series of blogs from contributors to the 'Employability: breaking the mould' case study compendium, Dr Xiaowen Gao, Senior Lecturer at University of Greenwich, shares her thoughts on student employability development in higher education.

Employability development is not about helping students to find a job but providing students the opportunities to learn about their themselves and to decide who they want to be in their life. The job market can only go tougher, only the ones who are adaptive, flexible and resilient can succeed.

A few years ago, when I was a personal tutor for a few 3rd year UG students who were doing their placement at various companies in London, one thing struck me was that in their monthly reports, the students rarely showed what they really had learnt from the placements.

Subsequently I became interested in student’s employability development, especially international students’ employability in the UK.  I recall that whenever I taught overseas at the university’s international partners, I liked to ask the students why they were interested in the subject they were studying and what they wanted to do in the future. I was surprised that many of them responded that their parents chose the subject for them and they were not yet sure what to do in the future.

The responses from the students has kept me thinking. University is a place to deliver knowledge and to equip the students with academic and intellectual skills to create new knowledge. Ultimately, only through students’ employment, can the knowledge created at universities be effectively applied in the real-world. It is not promising if the students have no idea about what they want to do in the future. It could even be called time-wasting if the students learn blindly without being aware of the importance of employability development to themselves and to the society.

In addition, the technological innovation has changed so much how people live, how companies do business, these all lead to new knowledge and skills that are required in the workplace. According to recent research, 25 per cent jobs have changed and are different from just four years ago.  Therefore, another big issue is whether today’s job seekers are well suited to the job opportunities in today’s economy. In the current workplace, one can only succeed by learning not only subject specific knowledge but also learning core skills which can be applied any time at any job to keep up.

Through my research I am glad to see some positive impact of such development on Chinese international students.  Some students graduated from the University of Greenwich have transformed into the graduates with much clearer career goal and independence. I am glad that most of students are having a successful career and I am also proud of those students who set up their own business and made it successful.

I see employability development as an essential process to help the student to become aware of their own career development.

Dr Xiaowen Gao is a Senior Fellow of Advance HE and a senior lecturer in Accounting and Finance at the Business Faculty of the University of Greenwich.


Download the 'Employability: breaking the mould' case study compendium, which brings together practices from across the sector to embedding employability in student learning.

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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