This OLT funded project developed an overarching framework to distinguish programs that enhance learning for employability from those that inhibit learning.
It highlighted the limitations of the traditional ‘silo’ approach and described an holistic approach that will best develop employability to match the current and future expectations of employers.
Employability skills are changing, shaped by economic and market demands, at a time when supply of graduates exceeds demand and many graduates struggle to find full-time employment. Employers frequently report that graduates do not have the requisite employability skills. While professional bodies encourage teaching staff to engage with the discipline they have noted declining participation rates of academics. The development of graduate employability within the student cohort is both complex and challenging for all stakeholders. ‘Employability’ is defined broadly to include the skills required to obtain a new position and those required to maintain existing employment.
In recent years many frameworks have been developed to address graduate employability, but most become outdated as the notions of graduate employability evolve over time. The CareerEDGE framework was selected as a foundation for the study as it is systematic, comprehensive and adaptable. The project enhanced the CareerEDGE framework by adding four new sub-categories (business acumen, networking, professionalism and ethics). The enhanced framework proved a useful tool to analyse differences between stakeholders and disciplines.
Conceptions of employability were remarkably similar among disciplines and stakeholders. Stakeholders from all disciplines readily identified a similar broad range of concepts relevant to employability. In particular, students’ understandings of employability were much broader than just subject knowledge and skills. Furthermore, students’ conceptions varied in level of sophistication, with descriptions of employability varying from simple to more nuanced, depending on whether they had undertaken work experience of a program with project- or industry-based.
However some gaps were found between employer perceptions of employability and the perceptions of other stakeholders. A major gap concerns the importance of work experience. Contrary to the popular idea that work experience is the best way to develop graduate employability, employers and professional bodies in this study took a much broader view, indicating that experience in general was more valuable than just work experience.
An overarching framework was devised to distinguish programs that enhance learning for employability from those that inhibit learning. It highlights the limitations of the traditional ‘silo’ approach and describes the holistic approach that will best develop employability to match the current and future expectations of employers that:
- stakeholders share a professional identity
- employability is integrated into a designed curriculum
- collaborative teaching teams use a student-focused pedagogy
- programs are designed for the work of today and tomorrow
Short stories were written that showcase innovative approaches to developing graduate employability. These transcend discipline boundaries and are broadly applicable. This is a useful contribution as there are insufficient high-quality resources available on curriculum for employability.
Recommendations of the project include:
- An employability framework is needed that, in addition to being coherent, systematic, detailed and adaptable, should promote a deep understanding of employability issues and facilitate development of sequenced curriculum.
- More high-quality teaching resources are needed to assist staff to adopt and adapt good practice to foster their students’ learning for employability.
- More evidence of effective practice is needed to ensure practices promoted for adoption are indeed effective.
- Educators should plan to develop students’ employability systematically from the beginning to the end of their studies. New program design is needed with employability integrated seamlessly into curriculum and assessment, and a new culture is needed where stakeholders share a professional identity.
Associate Professor Margaret Jollands
RMIT: Bronwyn Clarke, Danilla Grando, Margaret Hamilton, John Smith, Sofia Xenos.
Monash: Angela Carbone
USQ: Lorelle Burton