Engaging Employability Event…

Advance HE Employability Symposium May 2019 

As a brief background, I am a Senior Lecturer in Therapeutic Radiography and am involved in the ongoing development of employability support in the School of Health Sciences. I recently attended the Advance HE Employability Symposium in York on 30th June at which delegates from across the UK presented their work and I wanted to take the opportunity to share elements of this with colleagues at City.

The day was well attended and full of extremely useful information and opportunities to network. There was a strong theme of moving beyond specific employability modules towards embedding support for students throughout programmes of learning which aligns with our current approach. There were many examples of this and a range of frameworks being used or developed to guide implementation.

The employability engagement activities described through the day spanned from sessions for students at the pre-programme arrival stage to opportunities for current students throughout their programmes of study. A key theme highlighted across these approaches was the importance of developing awareness and engagement in the learner on how they can amass and strengthen their employment potential. This was particularly well explained by Clare Forder and Julie Fowie from the University of Brighton who explored how building on student capital (Tomlinson 2017), particularly through student reflection rather than solely through skills development, was recognised as a particularly beneficial approach resulting in more resilient and adaptable individuals.

Further to this a very interesting session from Laura Brammer and Elizabeth Wilkinson from the University of London highlighted how peer support was effective in helping individuals recognise their employability strengths in spite of a variety of challenges. Their approach in supporting students across the globe using online collaborative platforms allowed participants to share experiences and in doing so recognise the transferable potential of their skills and strengths. They went on to emphasise that self-reflection as a form of ipsative assessment is particularly valuable as only by this introspection can individuals develop self-awareness and help develop a personal plan and purpose. In another session it was suggested by Catherine O’Connor and Jess Sewter from Leeds Trinity University that graduates need a clear story to tell future employers and hence need to have developed skills and created evidence to achieve this.

Another key theme was the importance of supporting the development of a pre-professional identity (Jackson 2017). This was more involved for non-vocational programmes with the additional need to help support students identify/establish a career trajectory however this did not stand in the way of identifying core employability strengths or development needs. The importance of helping learners recognise the transferable elements of their educational activities and using these as a resource and strength in their professional development and profile was evident. The importance of helping learners to engage and think more widely was strongly encouraged as discussed in an engaging session from Richard Sant from the University of the Arts, London.

A topic of particular interest to me was the potential approaches available to implement change and achieve traction. There is a need to use correct language in programme documentation to embed employability within the curricula to ensure ownership by programme teams and recognition by the learner. To support this further it was interesting to hear from Derek Raine and Sarah Gretton from the University of Leicester on their work investigating students perceptions of their employability proficiencies and skill development. It appears that as students recognised what was incorporated in their curriculum helping them develop their employability skills there was a realisation that the approach used did not sacrifice core subject learning and hence was better received.

Please do get in touch if you have any comments and see tweets from the event here: https://twitter.com/hashtag/empsymp19?src=hashtag_click

Jackson, D., 2017. Developing pre-professional identity in undergraduates through work-integrated learning. Higher Education, 74(5), pp. 833-853.
Tomlinson M., 2017. Forms of graduate capital and their relationship to graduate employability. Education & Training, Vol. 59 Issue: 4, pp.338-352.

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