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Lessons learnt from the QAA student employability theme


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Workshop run at the QAA Reviewer conference held at Aston University, 27th June 2016.

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Lessons learnt from the QAA student employability theme

  1. 1. Lessons learnt from the QAA student employability theme Marieke Guy, Data Analyst Annual Reviewers’ Conference 27th June 2016
  2. 2. “While employers report strong demand for graduate talent, they continue to raise concerns about the skills and job readiness of too many in the graduate labour pool. Recent indications that the graduate earnings gap is in decline, and that significant numbers of graduates are going into non-graduate jobs, reinforce the need for action. “ Fulfilling our Potential, BIS Green paper, November 2015
  3. 3. Graduate ‘employability’ • Buzzword/fuzzy • Disliked by some students and academics • Soft skills; team working; communication; time management; confidence; attitude… • Involves engagement with staff, students and employers • Need for broader discourse
  4. 4. UK Quality Code B4 Enabling Student Development and Achievement • Chapter B4 requires that providers ‘have in place, monitor and evaluate arrangements and resources which enable students to develop their academic, personal and professional potential.’ • B4 also offers a snapshot of how the sector develops employability skills and embeds employability into their strategies.
  5. 5. Employability theme • Student employability has been a theme in HER since 2013 • HER Findings 2014-15 - nearly 20% of the features of good practice relate to students' employability • APs showing real innovation in this area – many features of good practice
  6. 6. Employability approaches
  7. 7. Embedding in the curriculum • Developing programmes that meet the needs of industry • Soft skills pervasive throughout a programme, delivered discretely, or designed-in to enhance a course • Employability strategy – e.g University of Essex. • Graduate Training Assistant programme e.g. South Devon College • Offer student Personal Development Planning sessions
  8. 8. Working with local employers • Engaging employers in quality assurance procedures • Work placements and paid internship e.g. Aston • Industry professionals who review and comment on the work of each student • Guest speakers and professional networking events • Drop in sessions and interview techniques • Long standing relationships with employers e.g. Conde Nash, UWE • Local focus groups and surveys e.g. South Devon College - Step-up to HE summer programme
  9. 9. Good practice case studies Royal School of Needlework. BA (Hons) Hand Embroidery for Fashion, Interiors, Textile Art. Photographer: Tas Kyprianou.
  10. 10. Good practice examples • Embedding key graduate attributes into courses • Close cooperation between careers and placements teams • Industry experience as a requirement of staff recruitment • Events that help to network students into particular industries.
  11. 11. Good practice case studies • Royal School of Needlework • University of Gloucester • Ravensbourne • South Devon College • University of Essex
  12. 12. Providers encouraged to… • Agree strategic approach • Develop practical support and advice for students e.g. CV writing, mock interviews, presentation support. • Engage with employers on course design, programme reviews, guest lecturing • Run networking events • Offer work placements, internships and mentoring. Shift work element of sandwich course to end • Consider information collection and analysis to gauge success, alumni work • Nurture soft skills and confidence building
  13. 13. Challenges
  14. 14. Employability challenges • Tensions between what employers and providers want • Changing work environment, employers not homogeneous group • Difficult to link identified employer need and course • Trying to speak the same language (staff, students, employers) – perceptions, interpretations • Variations in technical or theoretical innovation • Consistency – reaching all students • Challenges of real-world activity e.g. costs • …
  15. 15. Questions for discussion • How can providers be encouraged to continue to develop a strategic approach to employability? • How can employability be better embedded in programme design? • How can providers be supported in information collection to gauge success? • How can the insights found through this thematic area feed in to other areas for development, such as widening participation?
  16. 16. Other resources
  17. 17. Quality Enhancement Network • Employer Engagement, Employability and Higher Apprenticeships • Three locations: – 18 May 2016 - Kingston College – 23 May 2016 - Coventry University – 25 May 2016 - Manchester​ College • Outputs can be shared with subscribers
  18. 18. Other Resources • Skills for employability (QAA) • Enterprise and entrepreneurship guidance (QAA) • Education for sustainable development: Guidance for UK higher education providers (QAA) • Employability Initiatives in Universities and Colleges (QAA, Warwick, AGR) • Student employability profiles (HEA, CIHE) • Employability framework (HEA) • Employability booklet (
  19. 19. +44 (0) 1452 557000 © The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education 2015 Registered charity numbers 1062746 and SC037786