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Passion or Profession? Are the employability skills developed by first year Business and Human Resources Management students valued by placement providers?

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Passion or Profession
Michelle Blackburn, Jessica Foster &
Chantelle Trickett
A review of employer selection criteria
for ...

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Overview
• Background
• Aims
• Context
• Module design philosophy
• Literature review
• Purpose
• Methodology
• Findings
•...

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Background of the research team
Michelle - Module Leader on L4 HR module +
Students as researchers project
Jess - Psycholo...

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Passion or Profession? Are the employability skills developed by first year Business and Human Resources Management students valued by placement providers?

  1. 1. Passion or Profession Michelle Blackburn, Jessica Foster & Chantelle Trickett A review of employer selection criteria for placement seeking UK Business and Human Resource Management undergraduates
  2. 2. Overview • Background • Aims • Context • Module design philosophy • Literature review • Purpose • Methodology • Findings • Limitations • Possible practical implications
  3. 3. Background of the research team Michelle - Module Leader on L4 HR module + Students as researchers project Jess - Psychology and Sociology Graduate (brand new!!!) - assessment requirement Chantelle - snap :u)
  4. 4. Our Aims To find out whether efforts to include HR skills development enhanced students' employability. To find out what employers are looking for amongst HR undergraduates applying for HR placement opportunities. To find out how students were marketing their specialist subject knowledge to potential employers
  5. 5. Context • Over 650 students in the business school on placement every year, nearly 19,000 across the institution • BA Business and Human Resource Management • People Management - first year undergraduate module designed to develop relevant HR skills to support placement applications at L5 • Assessment • Design and build of a HR intranet site • Tailored to fictional company context • Range of specialist HR content eg Recruitment and selection
  6. 6. Module design philosophy • Atkins (1999, p. 276) employer-related projects offer students an opportunity to develop not only their specialist subject knowledge but also their 'generic skills and personal attributes in a context closer to that which [students] will encounter after graduation'. • Crebert et al (2004, p162) graduates are able to see how their generic skills develop through approaches that create 'stronger linkages between curriculum content and ‘real-world’ examples and applications'. • Robert and Saar (2012) suggest that discipline related skills developed while at university have a positive impact upon labour market returns.
  7. 7. Literature Review • Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) requirement that universities provide employability statements. Unistats (2015) directs potential students to universities (and colleges) to these employability statements. Here they can evaluate 'what each university or college offers to their students to support their employability, and their transition into employment and beyond.' • Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) produces the 'Destination of Leavers from Higher Education’ (DLHE) survey also published by Unistats • Tomlinson (2007) students recognise that with higher participation rates in HE, having the degree itself is not sufficient to guarantee future employment. Scott (1995, p112) notes 'Formal credentials are a less reliable guide' to candidate selection. • Stewart & Knowles (2000) suggest employability is a key consideration for students who embark upon a degree. Holmes (2013) extends this to their families
  8. 8. Literature Review Association of Graduate Recruiters: • 2015 Winter Survey (2015): 44.8% of graduate recruiters had one or more unfilled vacancy. Reasons varied but one of those commonly cited was that recruiters believed that applicants had reduced skills. • ‘Manifesto' for the new UK Government in 2015 that they have made 'All students need paid work experience as part of their education experience' their number one priority Jackson (2010) suggests employers see sandwich placements are a reliable way of differentiating students, and saving money on development.
  9. 9. Literature review An education and skills survey conducted by the CBI/Pearson (2013) found 88% of recruiters indicated attitudes and aptitudes for work were the most important recruitment factors, whereas only 67% suggested the degree subject or relevant work experience/industrial placement were the most important factors.
  10. 10. Purpose Did the design of the module and its innovative assessment impact upon selection decision making amongst HR placement employers?
  11. 11. Methodology Sample: 10 out of the 12 employers who recruited Sheffield Hallam University Business and HRM students to their HR placement programmes. 12 students working for these employers. (Employers of students recruited to other ‘business’ placements were not included in the sample). Private face to face interviews with students and employer representative at Employer premises
  12. 12. What we asked For students, what part of your university experience did you share; what skills have you used; any course changes for future. For employers, what do you look for in a graduate; degree type; potential changes for the module in the future.
  13. 13. What we did (continued) Carried out thematic analysis on interviews using the guidelines of Andrews and Higson (2008) • hard (business) skills • soft (interpersonal) skills • Work experience/work based learning
  14. 14. Findings - Employers Framework developed by Andrews and Higson (2008): Business Specific Issues (Hard business-related knowledge and skills); 20% of the employers valued breadth of HR knowledge/skills 60% sought general degree disciplines loosely associated with HR 20% recruited from any degree discipline "I'm looking for key words and skills associated with the role and I need them to be able to hit the ground running... I'm looking for a degree in business with HR or HR with business - I need to know they can get something out of the job." Employer 7 (International Brewer) _____________ "For interns, the degree needs to be relevant but business and economics is relevant enough for HR.” Employer 3 (International 'Technology Solutions' Provider) "... Sometimes events management and marketing for the learning and development role. HR stats area more numbers so finance may be more appropriate” Employer 9 (UK Subsidiary of an International Engineering and Electronics Company)
  15. 15. Findings - Employers Framework developed by Andrews and Higson (2008): Interpersonal Competencies (Soft business-related skills); 90% of employers selected on the basis of Interpersonal Competencies (soft business skills) "We are a small organisation so we have a real role and limited capacity to develop someone with general employability skills” Employer 6 (UK Charity) ___________ "The recruiters can pick from one of 117 characteristics that are relevant to the vacancy...” Employer 1 (International Automobile Manufacturer) "Personality and attitude is the key... They might have text book knowledge of HR but it is the right personality and attitude at interviews that makes a difference.” Employer 2 (International Fast Food Chain) "Overall more interested in general employability/workplace related skills rather than technical skills as they can be taught the technical skills in the role." Employer 5 (UK Packaging Manufacturer)
  16. 16. Findings - Employers Framework developed by Andrews and Higson (2008): Work Experience and Work-Based Learning; 60% of the employers identified previous work experience as a key short-listing criterion. "On the CV we look for work experience.” Employer 2 (International Fast Food Chain) "Work experience is great in CVs...” Employer 4 (International Engineering Conglomerate) "Our filters are work experience - so voluntary work and sports stuff is also included...” Employer 8 (International Specialist Automobile Engineering Company) "Any work experience not necessarily in the same industry, paid or voluntary, with societies in university” Employer 10 (International Aircraft Manufacturer)
  17. 17. Employer summary Employers: Bigger businesses preferred interpersonal skills compared to smaller businesses which wanted hard skills. Bigger employers were more keen on employing graduates with a range of degrees (psychology, law or business). The willingness to learn and personal drive was important.
  18. 18. Findings - Students Hard (Business) - 5 students used module related information • S2 / S11- demonstrated website • S3 / S8 / S12 - spoke about the module assessment Soft (Interpersonal) - 2 students there on 'personality' alone • S6 - related transferable skills • S10 - attitude and skills on the day Work (and university) experience - 5 student on experience • S5 / S7 / S9 - using general university knowledge/ assessment experience • S1 / S4 - used work experience
  19. 19. Findings - Students • Nearly half the students used the module experience as part of their selection/ application • 58% didn't use the module experience! • 5 students found the module useful as it was practical when on their placement; • one-quarter of students wanted more HR in first and second years
  20. 20. Limitations As a small scale study conducted with 10 employers and 12 students based on one SHU HR course, therefore it is hard to generalise. No employers wished to be recorded, making it difficult to properly interpret results - note taking
  21. 21. Possible practical implications These results begin to suggest that HR programmes that focus solely on the creation of subject based knowledge (without the embedding of soft skills and opportunities for work experience) could potentially disadvantage students when it comes to obtaining year- long placement opportunities. Courses need to help students articulate their soft skills development alongside that of their knowledge which is what we tend to offer marks for!
  22. 22. Thank you for listening!

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