On Thursday, 26 November, the HEA will be hosting the third in its new series of free lunchtime webinars: ‘What works in embedding employability in your institution?’ Employability consultant Maureen Tibby will be exploring the what, why and how of embedding employability - the context, challenges and opportunities. You can register for the webinar here.
Our free webinars offer the opportunity to come together to debate critical issues in HE learning and teaching. Taking newly-available research and resources as their starting point, they are aimed at those who want to keep up-to-date with new thinking to improve their practice, inform their institutional strategy, and develop policy. The webinars are highly collaborative, offering attendees the chance to ask questions, make comments and receive regular updates and resources before, during and after the seminar.
Maureen talks us through some key issues in employability as a taster for next week’s session:
How would you define employability?
Employability is relevant to all students whatever their area or mode of study. It is about supporting students to develop the knowledge, skills, experiences, behaviours, attributes, achievements and attitudes that will enable them to make successful transitions and continue to progress and develop throughout their careers. It is a lifelong learning process. Employability is integral to learning and teaching. It is about empowering and enhancing the learner.
Higher education institutions (HEIs) have made tremendous progress over the last 10 years in terms of their understanding of and engagement with employability and in creating institutional cultures that encompass, embed and promote employability. Embedding employability into all learning and teaching polices processes and practices emphasises that employability is integral to the curriculum and supports the engagement of all stakeholders.
Why should employability continue to be a core focus for HEIs?
Pressure to meet the expectations of its stakeholders has driven the employability agenda and continues to make it a key priority for HEIs. i.e.
- Graduate employability is a Government priority as it is vital to the UKs economic growth (regionally, nationally and internationally) and supports both social and culture development. This has ensured that employability remains a core focus for HEIs.
- The rise in tuition fees means that students and their families are investing in their future careers. This has resulted in greater focus on outcomes and on how their prospective/current institution/course can support them to enhance their immediate employment prospects and their longer term employability.
- Continued and effective engagement with employers to ensure understanding of their specific needs as regards graduate knowledge, skills, attributes is vital. This should inform the curriculum, HEI engagement with business and employability policy and practice.
- Excellence in graduate employment and employability enhances the institutions reputation and global standing which also influences student recruitment and engagement with employers.
Are there any common pitfalls when it comes to embedding employability?
Lack of support, structure and policy for employability and assuming that ‘one size fits all’. Employability is complex. When addressing employability, a clear process should be used to reflect on and address employability policy and practice in the institution, faculty, department and programme of study. The HEA Framework for embedding employability in higher education promotes a defined and cohesive approach to employability and provides tools to support its application.
- Not making employability explicit to students. Do students recognise how they are enhancing their employability? Are they supported to reflect on their development and can they confidently articulate this?
- Fear that employability in the curriculum replaces academic rigour and standards and/or creates additional work. Assumptions and lack of clarity about what is expected can alienate and create lack of engagement. It is crucial to support all staff to take ownership of employability by providing clear strategy, leadership, information, support and training.
- Narrowly defining employability as employment and the sole responsibility of an individual or department. Employability is relevant to all students and is a learning process. It is integral to learning and teaching and is the responsibility of all stakeholders. Collaboration and sharing practice supports effective employability policy and practice.