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Sir Tim Wilson's review of university-business collaboration (2012) suggest a gap between UK business and HE, stating that 'Universities should reflect on the opportunities that are provided for students to develop employability skills through the formal learning methodologies used within the university” (Wilson, 2012, p.10).
A recent Jisc funded project exploring assessment and employability further evidenced the ‘employability gap’ suggested in the review (University of Exeter, 2013). Cornwall College ran a workshop with a range of local employers who identified it wasn’t knowledge of specific IT platforms they wanted, more students being ‘work ready’, for example knowing how to present themselves appropriately through a range of different media. At an event led by Greenwich University two leading graduate recruiters talked passionately about learners having a flexible, can do attitude.
Recent surveys have also highlighted employability as amongst the foremost reasons for students considering a university education - Over 70% of students stated that improving job opportunities was the most important reason to go to university (CBI/NUS, 2011).
Qualifications are increasingly in FE and skills as a stepping stone to employment from which economic independence and active citizenship flow
We have evidence that technology can be an enabler to developing and communicating these skills, but it isn’t clear on how universities are using the tech to most effectively support learners.
Digitally savvy graduates (with more than just basic IT skills) are essential for shaping tomorrow’s entrepreneurial activities in employers. But employability skills articulated by employer, professional, sector and regulatory bodies do not typically stress the importance of digital literacies to support employability skills, such as communication, project management, collaboration.
Present and show-case their "rounded-self" - skills, knowledge, capabilities, attributes and experience - to employers using a range of digital media and channels Efficiently self-direct, plan, manage, evidence and review their lifelong learning and employability. Engage and collaborate with employers on "real world" learning experiences that can benefit a range of stakeholders e.g. employers, local communities, learners, staff. More effective feedback, and engagement with feedback to develop learners self regulatory skills Target and pro-actively communicate and engage with employers relevant to their employment goals, using a range of digital media and channels
E.g. Authentic approaches to learning.
St George’s, University of London G4 project implemented authentic collaborative assessments through virtual patients delivering ‘consequence-based’ learning vs paper problem based approaches. Evidenced showed: ‘Perhaps most importantly for learning outcomes were the repeated and unprompted statements by students that the .. VPs required them to think more actively, promoted clinical reasoning and developed better understanding than paper based cases’. See a case study and final report for more details.
The University of Exeter – developed a dimensions model, based on principles of ‘work-integrated’ assessment that was used to analyse, design and evaluate approaches to designing more authentic assessment tasks. Dimensions included collaborative working; real world tasks; multiple assessment points; peer review.
Better engagement with peers, staff and employers
Importance of acting on feedback: David Nicol - We need to see feedback, not just as a process that’s intended to improve learning, that there’s a bigger idea behind feedback, in that it should enable students to develop the capacity over time to make judgements and evaluate their own learning and to produce quality work themselves without the help of the teacher. …….. Giving comments isn’t enough – must think how students construct meaning from those comments and how they act on them – so that when they go into professional practice students set their own goals, evaluate their own progress, are we developing this in HE?’
Engage digitally literate students, supported by staff, offering potentially added value to the business e.g. addressing real employer problems. Glasgow Caledonian / InnotTech are developing partnerships with students/business to solve business problems
Enhanced engagement with employers leading to better understanding of employer needs that can feed into course design Using technology to support engagement with SMEs as well as large employers. Potential for using technology to enhance evaluation of impact of employability approaches. Potential for using technology to enhance provision of authentic opportunities for students to engage with employers
InnoTech is venture by South West College, Northern Ireland. Financed by the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL) to provide partnerships between industry and college students to nurture and grow innovation. They supply R&D support to companies in NI and wider. Industry approach Innotech with a particular problem/challenge and develop the project for them.
They then partners businesses with students at all levels – college students, pg researchers, graduate interns) with businesses around a particular problem. And encourage the return of the knowledge through the curriculum. And promote culture of innovation and adventure in schools to promote STEM subjects through projects supervised by the college STEM centre and the Idea creative technology studio. Projects vary between 12 and 36 months.
Partnerships are facilitated using technology tools (CAD and animation modelling tools) and communications tools. Student also work directly with companies on technology projects in the area of mechanical engineering, IT, electronics and renewable energy systems . Won international green sustainability awards. And AOC Beacon Award 2013.
S&B Automotive Academy
The S&B Automotive Academy is an independent provider based on the motor vehicle industry in Bristol. They support apprentices who are placed in client organizations around the UK, Germany and Bermuda, dealing with supplies, bodywork, repairs etc.
The apprentices are supported through the Moodle VLE and industry portfolio (Institute of Motor Vehicle Industry) along with mobile devices, even when on work-placement. Come into the company for their classes, with over 1500 online learning modules on the VLE. Apprentices make use of video capture in garages to demonstrate competence, and students encouraged to talk over the video capture to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding. A training needs analysis assesses their gaps, and courses fill gaps only.
They also go into schools to talk about the apprenticeship scheme, and have the apprentices present over a live video feed from their current workplace, doing a Q&A session.
Focus on developing a mixture of attitude, knowledge and commitment.
Now working with virtual reality, building a professional virtual reality paint spray workshop that allows apprentices to acquire paint spraying skills at vast cost savings (at least £13,000 in teacher time and consumables so far).
Keele’s strategic approach to student employability is focused on supporting students to take responsibility for their own development via a new flexible degree structure that includes co-curricula activities offering options such as part-time work, entrepreneurial schemes or volunteering. A development strand runs through all curricula with a focus on personal and professional development, helping students to focus students on making sense of, and taking responsibility for their learning and futures.
They have developed a ‘Keele University Skills Portfolio’, an e-portfolio based collection of students reflections on their experiences (curricular or co-curricular), evidencing the Keele Graduate Attributes, which leads to an accredited certificate from the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM), the UKs largest awarding body for leadership and management qualifications. Also recognised on the students HEAR.
Completed portfolios are submitted to the personal tutor who signs it off pending the result of their main award. See: http://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/blog/2013/jan/22/student-development-university-curriculum-design
Greenwich Connect: a joined up approach to employability in a digital world
Greenwich Connect is the Universities approach to learning innovation in a digital world which joins-up strategies and practices for teaching, learning, employability and digital literacies. It works with projects that support the creation and growth of networks and connections between learners, graduates, faculty, peers, research and community.
One example of a project within Greenwich Connect is a virtual law clinic – a specialist web-based case advice system developed by students. Any member of the public can submit a query using the secure web form, and is assessed for suitability by an academic and law professional. The query is then assigned to a bank of volunteer law students / and academics and profs that are working pro-bono. Tools are used to facilitate asynchronous and synchronous working to find a solution. Once draft advice has been approved it is shared back through the website. Every study writes a reflective blog of her experiences of working on the case. All information and communication is retained to grow the knowledgebase.
Different visions of “maturity” and variation in approaches to developing employability skills and attributes At this stage, we not sure what “maturity” – when it comes to developing student employability skills – looks like and not even sure whether it is a useful concept. In fact, “maturity” probably looks different to different institutions/disciplines and perhaps the term could be applied more to the processes involved in identifying and developing student employability skills rather than on the “end-product”.
In FE….a very clear remit that the purpose of each FE course has to have a clear ‘line of sight’ to employment – with the end product being employment not the qualification. In HE that is much less strong a focus in some areas, but also clear for the more vocational areas.
Authentic experiences can develop skills, but depend on the degree of “authenticity” and the degree to which students learn/reflect on them and articulate them Authentic employer learning experiences are probably one of the best approaches to equipping students with employability skills but our research shows that it is not clear-cut. For instance, placements may only be short lived and some students only experience low-level tasks. At the other extreme, we have found examples of students working in cohorts with employers on real employer issues and challenges. The authentic learning experience is not the end of it – we have come across some wonderful examples of students being required to reflect on their learning experiences and draw out what they have learnt and then being able to demonstrate, record and articulate this to academics and employers. E-portfolios are an example of technology that supports this process, particularly where students use their mobile devices to capture evidence e.g. interviews with employers.
“Lifelong employability” needs to be a core student capability – with students encouraged to “take ownership” early on Our thesis is that rather than encouraging just “graduate employability” (& sometimes with an over-emphasis on getting jobs for students irrespective of whether they are appropriate for them), we need to equip students with a more self-directed “lifelong employability” capability – which in itself is a key employability skill. This “taking ownership” approach aligns with the trend for curricula to adopt student self-directed learning/assessment approaches and therefore brings together the “self-directed” concept for both lifelong learning and lifelong employability.
Curriculum design structures can pose barriers to lifelong employability – e.g. modularization and the difficulty of seeing a more holistic view of student progression and development using tech that are focused around courses not the learner. Need to support more learner-centred approaches using techs that support that. And need to ensure learners are regularly challenged to think about their learning experiences or achievements and progression. Too little guided movement towards self regulation, but technology eg e-portfolio technologies can help.
Needs to support students to ‘stitch together’ their experiences – students need scaffolding to ensure they make sense of their learning across the piece.
Variation in practices and understanding of potential of technologies – by institutions, students and employers Despite our finding some wonderfully creative uses of technology to support student employability, there does appear to be wide variation in practices and understanding of how to use it effectively. For instance, there are a range of examples of using e-portfolios, some to good effect, but it does appear that this technology is generally not being used to anywhere near its full potential. Another example is the use of social media – in my view students are not using it to anywhere near its potential to engage and network with stakeholders such as employers and alumni. Perhaps this is because they see it more as something for their social lives – our dig lit programme has evidenced that even where they have dig lit skills students find it hard to apply to the working envt.
Many creative uses of technology, but “embedding” remains elusive to many institutions We have found many really creative uses of technology e.g. using simulations, virtual reality, wikis, digital story-telling, but as with technology-enhanced learning in general, institutions typically find it difficult to roll them out in a widespread way
Digital literacies underplayed for underpinning employability skills When we’ve looked at how different institutions are defining and shaping employability skills, there is not that much emphasis on digital literacies – nor is there much alignment of digital skills with employability skills. For instance, “team-working” and “communications” are typical employability skills and they are often illustrated through indicators such as “contributing ideas in a team”, “improving your team behaviour” – with no reference to digital skills & practices e.g. “keeping up-to-date with collaboration, communication and information management tools, “influencing team members to use collaboration tools”. We should be equipping graduates with such digital literacies, but we must also help them to make the link between such digital skills and employability skills.
Dig lit programme, found that employers find it hard to articulate clearly what they want from dig lit graduates. Other research suggests its for ‘soft’ digital skills eg. Communication and collaboration as well as the ability to learn harder system related skills quickly.
On the flip side academic staff are also unclear on what digital literacies will be required by students in the workplace or how to support them.
Employers and HE/FE generally have low aspirations in relation to “digital entrepreneurialism” Institutions don’t do enough to raise it, employers don’t see the potential and keep the status quo. Cycle of low expectations. Could HE do more to help employers be more entrepreneurial using digital technologies?
Core employability skills and attributes are typically being addressed, with variations… but they are continually evolving
How are institutions are defining employability skills?. There are of course the usual “core” skills e.g. communication, team-working, but this area is a moving feast. There is variation in what employers focus on – some even focus more on the soft skills or attributes such as “confidence”, “high aspirations and motivation”. There are even ongoing initiatives to update such skills frameworks e.g. the Wakeham Review of STEM Degree Provision and Graduate Employability.
Unclear the degree to which employers (large and small) are involved in defining and developing employability skills It is unclear at this stage, the degree to which institutions consult and engage with employers and employer/professional bodies on defining and developing employability skills. In some areas, such as health sciences, there is effective engagement and professional standards frameworks (including alignment with national occupational standards), but in other discipline areas, there see
Not always easy to identify “truly” authentic learning experiences with employers for ALL students, though there is much potential for student cohorts to work in partnership with employers on “real and challenging” employer/sector problems We often talk about helping students to find authentic learning experiences e.g. through placements. But the reality is that it is very difficult for programmes to place ALL students in truly authentic learning scenarios via e.g. placements. We need to think more in terms of engaging employers and sector/professional bodies in identifying “real” challenges for student cohorts to work on – including cross-discipline/cross-institution and even international cohorts. One of my favourite initiatives is the Institute of Mechanical Engineers Formula Student project – where students have to design and build a racing car – this is now an International competition and it is one of the most effective means of teaching students employability skills. FE is perhaps better at such engagement than HE
Online space For example:
provision of advice by students/staff to employers problem-solving employer issues match-making (e.g. alumni mentors) mentoring (e.g. alumni, employer mentoring of students) development of knowledge-bases e.g. for employers and professional / sector areas crowd-voting to support identification of and ideas generation for shared problems professional / discipline communities of practice
Recent implementation toolkit and accompanying video case studies.
Students as agents of change – evidenced these opportunities as being key for the devt of employability skills.
Dig lit programme – range of learning points around digit lits and employability
Guidance on redesigning assessments to ensure they are ‘work-integrated’, and discussion of the importance of developing learners self-regulation.
Curriculum design explored how to better design courses with employers views at the fore and flexible provision provided for.
Our LLL programme explored how to ensure learners can access education at all stages of life, including whilst in the workplace.
How can technology help to prepare learners for the world of work?
Lisa Gray, Peter Chatterton and Geoff Rebbeck
22/04/2015 How can technology help to prepare
learners for the world of work?
»Background and context
› Why is this important?
› Technology as an enabler
› Introduction to the Jisc employability study
»Examples of practice
»A framework for ‘technology for employability’
»Institutional readiness….some early thoughts
»Key themes and issues
»Group activity – identifying good practices
Preparing learners for the world of work 2
Why is this important?
› Increasing importance in
policy and strategy
– evidence of an
› Means to economic
independence and active
› Qualifications not an end to
Preparing learners for the world of work 3
› Evidence that technology can be
– But it’s not clear how institutions
are using technology most
effectively to support learners
› Digital savvy graduates are
essential for shaping tomorrows
– But digital literacies aren’t well
articulated in relation to
»Efficiently self-direct, plan, manage,
evidence and review their lifelong
learning and employability
»Present and showcase their
› Opening up opportunities
»Opportunities for interaction with
peers, staff, mentors, employers
»Engage digitally literate students,
supported by staff, offering
potentially added value to the
Preparing learners for the world of work 4
Technology as an enabler…a flavour
»Enhanced engagement with
› Leading to better understanding of
employer needs….and courses that
better meet those needs
»Efficiencies and cost effectiveness
› Virtual reality opportunities
particularly at scale
› Mapping portfolios, faster progression
through courses (~20%)
Jisc employability study
»December 2014 - study funded
»February - open invitation for
examples of practice
»April 29th – webinar to share
emerging themes and findings
»May – study completes
› Case studies and vignettes
› Analysis of the technology and
› Issues, challenges, gaps and
»June – next steps identified
Preparing learners for the world of work 5
Effective practice examples
Preparing learners for the world of work 6
Case studies - HE
University of Greenwich Greenwich Connect: a joined up approach to employability in a digital world
University of Northampton Student employability development through social innovation and enterprise
Problem-solving real business issues using wikis
Birmingham City University A range of creative approaches to developing student employability
Keele University ILM accredited e-portfolio-based employability award
University of Edinburgh Student-led e-portfolio-based assessments for evidencing graduate attributes
University of Birmingham Online employability skills pathway of the Personal Skills Award
University of London Employability skills MOOC
Staffordshire University Staffordshire Graduate Employability project
Bath Spa University International virtual internship programme
Oregon State University
Global student collaborative venture to compete in international student racing
Effective practice examples
Preparing learners for the world of work 7
Case studies – FE and skills
The Mindset Joint venture between Reed employment and 13 colleges – in campus branches
S&BAutos Supporting motor vehicle apprenticeships through Moodle and virtual reality
Job Centre Plus Using technology to support those out of work
Welsh Baccalaureate Digital literacies embedded into the qualification
MyWorksearch An online employability service supporting learners on an ongoing journey
South Devon College Using an online employability course
SouthWest College, NI Using technology to support partnership projects between students and industry
Portland College Project using video, accessed by QR codes to support learners with disabilities
ReadingCollege A college-wide move away from theVLE to learner-centred approaches
City of Glasgow College An e-portfolio for stonemasons to best record their experiences in the workplace
Preparing learners for the world of work 8
Further education and skills
InnoTech, South West College,
Greenwich virtual law clinic
Preparing learners for the world of work 9
Technology for employability
Preparing learners for the world of work 11
Active and “real world” learning
experiences – supported by
technologies – that help to develop
Preparing learners for the world of work 12
lifelong learning and
Self-directed personal and
professional learning (planning,
reflection, managing, recording,
review) – supported by
(Digital) feedback and
engagement with a variety of
employers to help develop
learner self-regulatory skills
assessment for learning
Technology for employability
Preparing learners for the world of work 13
lifelong learning and
Researching, identifying and
developing contacts and
relationships with employers
Developing “digital” and
Developing “digital collateral”
as evidence of student
“rounded self” to employers
and personal clients
Technology for employability
Preparing learners for the world of work 14
lifelong learning and
development for skills
Technology for employability
Preparing learners for the world of work 15
lifelong learning and
• Developing student
Technology for employability
Preparing learners for the world of work 16
lifelong learning and
Technology for employability
Preparing learners for the world of work 17
for employability into
polices, plans and
partnerships to drive
change in technology
QA & continuous
Institutional readiness….some early thoughts
» Different visions of ‘maturity’ and variation in approaches to
developing employability skills and attributes
› FE – focused on ‘line of sight’ to employment
» Authentic experiences can develop skills, but depend on the degree
of “authenticity” and the degree to which students learn/reflect on
them and articulate them
» “Lifelong employability in a digital age” needs to be a core student
capability, with students encouraged to ‘take ownership’ early on
› Curriculum design structures can be a barrier
› Are learners routinely challenged to think about their learning
experiences or achievements and progression?
Preparing learners for the world of work 18
1. Institutions are on various points of the continuum
towards student employability “maturity”
» Variation in practices and understanding of potential of technologies
– by institutions, students and employers
» Many creative uses of technology, but ‘embedding’ remains elusive
to many institutions
» Digital literacies are underplayed for underpinning employability
» Employers and HE/FE generally have low aspirations in relation to
Preparing learners for the world of work 19
2:Technology is under exploited
» Core employability skills and attributes are typically being
addressed, with variations… but they are continually evolving
» Unclear the degree to which employers (large and small) are involved
in defining and developing employability skills
› And not much evidence of institutions evaluating the impact of
employability policies / initiatives with employers
» Not always easy to identify “truly” authentic learning experiences
with employers for ALL students, though there is much potential for
student cohorts to work in partnership with employers on “real and
challenging” employer/sector problems
Preparing learners for the world of work 20
3: Insufficient engagement and partnership working
What does “maturity” look like? …. a scenario
» Employability embedded into curricula and assessment
» Authentic learning experiences
» Inextricably linked to “assessment for learning” and authentic assessment
» Includes student articulation and evidencing of experiential learning and
» Maps to QAA “Flexible curricula” framework
» Requires a learner-centred connected technology infrastructures
» Requires effective employer engagement
» Requires joined-up approaches to institutional policies and plans
Preparing learners for the world of work 21
› to help institutions self-assess
‘technology for employability’, plan
enhancements, linked to policies,
goals and priorities
»Framework making clearer the digital
context for employability skills
»Online space to support collaborative
problem solving with students/
professional bodies/ staff and
»Collaborative communications and
engagement plan to raise awareness
Preparing learners for the world of work 22
Some early thoughts…..
Preparing learners for the world of work 23
lifelong learning and
• Take one of the “Technology
for employability” dimensions
• Identify good practices
record on post-its
Related Jisc activity
» e-Portfolios – guidance on what they, how you can
use them and successful implementation (new
‘quick guide’ in development)
» Students as Agents of Change
» Digital Literacies
» Assessment and employability
» Curriculum Design
» Lifelong Learning and Workforce Development
Preparing learners for the world of work 24
Where to find out more
+ Webinar – 29 April (12pm – 1pm) - registration: http://bit.ly/1DwhZP0
Find out more
»Lisa Gray email@example.com
»Geoff Rebbeck firstname.lastname@example.org
»Join the conversation on the blog:
»and on twitter #jiscemployability
www.jisc.ac.uk/eportfolio (new ‘quick
guide’ currently in development)
Preparing learners for the world of work 25