Two working definitions of employability were proposed at the Curriculum Transformation Working group meeting in March 2018:
A set of achievements, understandings and personal attributes that make an individual more likely to gain employment and be successful in their chosen occupations (Yorke and Knight, 2006)
The capacity to move self-sufficiently within the labour market to realise potential through sustainable employment…for the individual it depends on the knowledge, skills and attributes they possess, the way they use those assets and present them to employers” (Institute of Employment Studies, 2017)
Employability has long been part of higher education. Cole and Tibby (2013) explain what employability is, and what it isn’t:
• A lifelong process.
• Applies to all students (undergraduates and postgraduates) whatever their situation, course or mode of study.
• Complex and involves a number of different areas that interlink.
• About supporting students to develop a range of knowledge, skills, behaviours, attributes and attitudes which will enable them to be successful not just in employment but in their wider life.
• A university-wide responsibility.
• About making the components of employability explicit to students to support their lifelong learning.
• About replacing academic rigour and standards.
• Necessarily about adding additional modules into the curriculum.
• Just about preparing students for employment.
• The sole responsibility of the Careers and Faculty Placement team.
• Something that can be quantified by any single measure
Five Steps to Enhancing Employability in the Curriculum:
- Be explicit. Many modules reference employability skills development in module descriptors and handbooks; are you however making explicit reference to them during the course of teaching? Students often don’t realise that they’ve implicitly been developing skills that could be powerful when they apply for employment.
- Assessment drives behaviour. Consider the behaviours you want the students to demonstrate and construct your assessment accordingly. For example, if you are wanting to develop resilience in your students, learning how to experiment, fail, and try again is a critical life skill but all too often students do not have room to fail in pursuit of a decent grade. You may wish to include form of early assessment, formative in nature but potentially carrying a small mark, in which they are empowered to fail and to learn.
- Involve employers. Beyond providing work placements, employers and alumni can support your teaching in numerous ways: host workplace visits, input into curriculum development, provide case studies, deliver guest lectures, provide project ideas and get involved with assessments such as judging student presentations.
- Encourage reflection. Being a good team worker cannot simply be measured by marking the final product of the team’s work. It is the process of having worked in a team, of having managed conflict, which is the value of such work. Encouraging students to reflect on their processes and identify the strategies for success is more meaningful and supports life-long learning.
- Signpost. A wide range of support services and opportunities to develop employability skills are available to students outside of the curriculum. Some students access these independently but not all students are pro-active about their career development. Personal tutoring and individual meetings play an important role in encouraging students to consider their future and to access the various opportunities the university has to offer.