In 2013, Advance HE (formerly Higher Education Academy) developed Defining and developing your approach to employability: a framework for higher education institutions (Cole, D. and Tibby, M., 2013) which was updated in 2015/2016 - in collaboration with the HE sector - into The Framework for Embedding Employability. The framework aims to provide a strategic and practical process for reflecting on and addressing employability provision.
Employability is one of six strategic areas of priority which Advance HE regards as being key to achieving student success in HE, as identified in the Student Success Frameworks series.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic impact with the Bank of England warning that the UK faces a historic recession. For graduates completing their programmes the opportunities for them to move into work will be limited; coupled with this we see graduate recruitment programmes reducing – all of which exaggerates the challenge faced by many leaving Higher Education.
As a sector there are many challenges presented by the pandemic – but opportunities also exist, in particular as programmes, content, delivery and pedagogies are reviewed as we move to a new ‘normal’.
Now, more than ever, employability is relevant to all students at all levels of study. To be addressed effectively employability should be embedded into learning and teaching policies, processes and practices and considered throughout the student lifecycle, from the very start of a student programme through to completion of their studies.
Graduates should be equipped to make successful transitions - not just on graduation but throughout their life - and to manage their careers effectively. All stakeholders have a responsibility to recognise and develop the wide reaching aspects of employability and encouraging this will support the integration of employability into the culture of the institution.
While the Embedding Employability framework provides a strategic and practical process for reflecting on and addressing current employability provision, the guide complements it and adds currency by including; the necessary context within the thematic area of employability, information to facilitate discussions and reflections on employability provision, reflective questions to inform learning and teaching with regard to employability and a focus on horizon scanning and the future facing perspective.
The guide begins the iterative process of reflecting and considering the Employability Framework and, as we look to the future, it is worth identifying what we anticipate will be just four areas of focus relevant to enhancing employability for all in Higher Education:
- Embedding employability, and enterprise and entrepreneurship: in 2019, Advance HE launched its framework for enterprise and entrepreneurship, developed in partnership with EEUK, IOEE, ISBE, SFEDI and the QAA . This is aligned to the Employability Framework focussing specifically on the ways in which enterprise and entrepreneurship education can support the learner - whether they want to be self-employed or enterprising when working in the private, public or voluntary and community sector. With a much wider understanding of the benefits beyond business school, alongside a growing need for students to demonstrate the ability to work through and beyond disciplines, bringing new ideas to the table and less 'task' orientated 'skills' all of these point to enterprise and entrepreneurship being well placed to provide a catalyst for change.
- Adapting to and utilising technology: continuing to engage with and adapt to using new forms of technology is crucial, particularly in regard to recording and monitoring a range of ‘employability’ elements and enabling students to self-assess and develop critical reflection from year 1 through to PG. While the very necessary and important aspects of career development learning will still be required the way students capture, record, measure, reflect and articulate their employability development can only be improved by technology. Furthermore, the very necessary predicted hard skills of the future are all underpinned by strong digital capabilities making the utilisation of technology an absolute priority.
- Ensuring quality work related and based learning: will help shape and create connectivity across programmes. Not only will this enhance students’ employability and support employer engagement but with truly authentic assessment students will be able to align their specific knowledge and attributes, seizing and shaping opportunities and responding to real challenges. With a non-linear job market these opportunities must be considered and adopted more widely, ensuring such opportunities are both available and accessible to all students.
- There is a need to create connectivity across and beyond programmes: While there are many examples of multidisciplinary learning: people from different disciplines working together, each drawing on their disciplinary knowledge there needs to be a shift to more interdisciplinary approaches, integrating knowledge and methods from different disciplines, using a real synthesis of approaches in order to move beyond the disciplinary perspectives and boundaries as the world in which we are preparing graduates for requires such adaptable and nuanced thinking.
What do you think? What other areas are just as important – or perhaps more so? Come join the conversation in Advance HE Connect.
Maureen was Academic Lead Employability and Consultant Academic Practice for the Higher Education Academy. She is an Advance HE Academic Associate
Stuart is a senior adviser in learning and teaching at Advance HE with a particular steer towards employability and enterprise. Follow him on Twitter @S_J_Norton