Why and How to Embed Employability in Courses (Subjects) and Assessment?
When surveyed, what is the number one reason students give for going to university? You probably guessed it – “to get a better job.”
Better than what they would get, if they did not go to university, or better than the job that they currently have (without the sought-after university degree).
What is the number one thing that universities can do to ensure graduates fulfil their career aspirations? Sending students outside the course, to a Career Centre, to take care of their employability needs is not the most effective solution (Bridgstock, Grant-Iramu, & McAlpine, 2019).
The number one strategy (for impact) is when the Course Examiners (and other university staff) embed employability awareness, perspectives and activities into regular timetabled courses (Bridgstock, Grant-Iramu, & McAlpine).
The number one strategy (for impact) is when the Course Examiners (and other university staff) embed employability awareness, perspectives and activities into regular timetabled courses.(Bridgstock, Grant-Iramu, & McAlpine).
There are three main reasons why embedding career-learning in courses is the most effective approach to employability.
First, students are busy and stretched-thin.
Most will (can) only make time for learning activities that are not bolt-on extras, but are an integrated part of what they need to do in their courses (Jorre de St Jorre, Elliott, Johnson, & Bisset, 2019).
Embedded employability is even more effective if it is made part of graded assessment.
Second, embedding employability in courses allows the learning activities and outcomes to be contextualised and specific to the discipline. For example, what makes engineering graduates employable is specific, and different from what is required in other disciplines and industries (Male & King, 2019).
Third, an obligation of a university educator is to keep up-to-date in the developments, research and technologies in the disciplines/industries they teach-into.
This makes Course Examiners ideal messengers of relevant employability matters.
What is employability?
Graduate Employability means that higher education alumni have developed the capacity to obtain and/or create work.
Furthermore, employability means that institutions and employers have supported the student knowledge, skills, attributes, reflective disposition and identity that graduates need to succeed in the workforce. (Kinash, et al., 2015)
What, specifically, can Course Examiners do to support their students’ employability?
Here are a number of ideas/approaches that have worked.
Consider co-creating more strategies with your students, and then sharing them online (i.e. Scholarship of Learning and Teaching).
- Before each module, take the time to talk to your students about application and transferability. Have a conversation about where, when and in what contexts, graduates might apply these realms of knowledge, skills and/or attributes in the workplace.
- Use published tools (or co-create new ones with your students and then share them online) to help students make tangible links between their learning (specifically assessment) activities and employability. Here are a couple links to tools for starters.
IASK Employability Assessment Tool https://works.bepress.com/shelley_kinash/259/
SPIRAL Identity Employability Tool https://works.bepress.com/shelley_kinash/260/
- Tell your career story to your students and help them see the twists and turns of your career. Ask them to share their career stories to date, and their aspirations and goals for the future.
- Assign your students the task of finding relevant job advertisements for graduate careers. Collate the Selection Criteria across the submitted job ads. With your students, map (connect the dots between) the Selection Criteria and the Course Learning Outcomes, and perhaps with the University’s Graduate Attributes.
- Invite a panel of employers from diverse (relevant) industries/organisations. The panel can be online through the Discussion Forum, or traditional face-to-face. Invite the panellists to make brief presentations of a provocative nature (i.e. contemporary industry-relevant debates). Leave lots of time for student questions.
- Ensure that at least one of your assessment tasks mirrors activities that most employees in the relevant industry (or industries) do on a regular basis. Ask a few of your colleagues employed in that industry to choose the top three student submissions for prizes.
- Ask your industry-employed colleagues to describe relevant problems or challenges that they will need to solve in the future. Get your students working on them now.
This final bullet-point takes us full circle to the beginning of our conversation about embedded employability.
The discussion began with the statement that students go to university “to get a better job.”
Many employers have similar motivations. They hire university graduates to make the company or industry better.
Employers do not want to hire university graduates who can only learn the status quo; they want university graduates who can lead them forward into the future.
It is incumbent upon universities to prepare students to take on this role.
Bridgstock, R., Grant-Iramu, M., & McAlpine, A. (2019). Integrating career development learning into the curriculum: Collaboration with the careers service for employability.Journal of Teaching & Learning for Graduate Employability, 10(1), 56-72.
Jorre de St Jorre, T., Elliott, J., Johnson, E.D., & Bisset, S. (2019). Science students’ conceptions of factors that will differentiate them in the graduate employment market.Journal of Teaching & Learning for Graduate Employability, 10(1), 27-41.
Kinash, S., Crane, L., Judd, M-M., Mitchell, K., McLean, M., Knight, C., Dowling, D., & Schulz, M. (2015). Supporting graduate employability from generalist disciplines through employer and private institution collaboration, final report prepared for the Australian Government, Office for Learning and Teaching. Retrieved from:http://cdn.graduateemployability.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/23154726/SP13_3239_Kinash_Report_2015.pdf
Male, S., & King, R.W. (2019). Enhancing learning outcomes from industry engagement in Australian engineering education. Journal of Teaching & Learning for Graduate Employability, 10(1), 101-117.