News

Employability in the Curriculum – helping students to recognise it

This ‘Employability in the curriculum’ blog series is brought to you by the Faculty Employability Team at the Careers Service. These blogs are designed to give you practical advice and ideas to get started with enhancing how your curriculum prepares students for their future success.

In our last blog we explored how you can surface and enhance employability in your units or programme. Now we move our focus to the reason we’re all here, our students.

While it’s one thing for you to be able to recognise how you are preparing students for their futures, it’s another for them to recognise and articulate this themselves. Self-awareness is a skill in its own right. While for some students reflecting on their skills and thinking ahead will come naturally, others need more help and encouragement. Students recognising their employability will in turn enable them to articulate it to others – including future employers.

As an aside, you may have spotted that the new Graduate Outcomes survey asks graduates whether they feel that they’re using what they learned during their studies in their current role. While you may understand where and how your unit or programme prepares students for their professional life, this question emphasises how important it is for them to be able to make the link as well. (For more information about the Graduate Outcomes survey and the recently published results have a look at this SharePoint site.)

Making skills, knowledge and attributes explicit to students is therefore the next piece in the puzzle – and our focus for today.

How can you make employability explicit for students?

Ideally, this is about facilitating skills recognition and development of self-awareness authentically through your own units or programmes. It isn’t about spoon feeding students, but where possible interweaving these elements into your learning outcomes, learning activities, assessments, and opportunities for real-world application.

So what does this look like in practice? Here are some practical ideas:

Framing your unit and learning outcomes

  • Refer to skills in your programme or unit learning outcomes – either in the language of the learning outcomes themselves, or by adding in a short accompanying narrative on their employability links and benefits. You can use the Bristol Skills Framework to identify the skills your students might be developing (see our previous blog post for more information on this).
  • When introducing the unit, clearly outline the skills and attributes students will develop – including how they will do this. This will help them to put the skills in context and see their relevance. You can embed this in an introductory session, short video, Blackboard post, or within your unit handbook.
  • Provide opportunity at the end of the unit for students to identify and reflect on the skills they have used (see more below).

Through your learning and assessment activities

  • Explain to students the different skills and attributes they will need to complete a task or activity well. For example, in a group discussion highlight what effective communication and collaborative working looks like.
  • Explain to students how different assessments are developing different skills and attributes and what they need to demonstrate to perform well. For example, explain to students the applicability of the critical thinking and written communication skills they develop (amongst others) when writing essays.
  • Consider including skills and attributes as part of your feedback on tasks and assessments. This will help students to see the importance of this aspect of their learning, and reflect on their own development.
  • Encourage and facilitate student reflection on their skills development, providing opportunities for them to do this whether individually or with others, or even as part of their assessment. Watch out for a blog later in the series which will focus on ways to do this.

References to real-world application

  • Show students where and how the skills and subject knowledge they’re using could be applied professionally – e.g. through an example, case study, or even inviting an external speaker to share the skills they use in their role.
  • Explain – and where possible provides examples of – where the skills students are developing are those which employers are looking for. This could be in specific professions or sectors linked to an area of study, or more generally – for example, the World Economic Forum has predicted which skills will be in demand in 2030.
  • Suggest ways that students can further develop their skills and subject interests outside of their studies – e.g. through relevant work experience or volunteering. Encourage them to look at the range of options available on the University’s very own skills development hub, myopportunities.

Now we’ve shared a few of our ideas, we would love to hear what you think. Would any of these methods work for your unit or programme? Do you have any other ideas?  Share your feedback to help us develop our advice and guidance for academic staff in the coming months. Get in touch with Ellen (Faculty Employability Manager) at ellen.grace@bristol.ac.uk

Our next posts will look at different ways you can provide opportunities for real world learning in your curriculum.

News

Employability in your curriculum – what’s already there?

This ‘Employability in the curriculum’ blog series is brought to you by the Faculty Employability Team at the Careers Service. These blogs are designed to give you practical advice and ideas to get started with enhancing how your curriculum prepares students for their future success.

In our first blog post in this ‘Employability in the Curriculum’ series, we introduced you to the concept of employability in the curriculum and why it especially matters now. If you missed it, take a minute to read here.

Without any further ado, the rest of the blog posts in this series are designed to help you get stuck into the matter at hand – i.e. practical tips on how to maximise the potential of your unit or programme to help students in their future success.

Today’s blog is all about recognising how you are already developing employability, and encouraging you to think about ways this could be enhanced.

1. Recognising where you are already developing employability

Enhancing employability is often about surfacing what’s already there. Once you’re clear on how your course content and methods help to prepare students for their future lives after university, you can help to make this value explicit for them.

A good starting point is thinking about where you want students to be at the end of your unit or programme. What types of learners and future graduates are you encouraging? This can be helpful in identifying the skills, knowledge and attributes your curriculum is developing.

You can also break this down to think specifically about your:

  • Content: Where do the topics covered connect to the real world? What elements of the knowledge gained could students apply beyond their academic studies?
  • Tasks and assessment: What skills and attributes do your activities and assessments develop? How will these equip students for life and work after university?

Identifying the knowledge that you are imparting may be straightforward; picking out skills and attributes can feel a little trickier. However, the following can help:

  • QAA Subject Benchmark Statements – outline the skills, knowledge and attributes reasonably expected of graduates in a subject – i.e. what employers are looking for.
  • The Bristol Skills Framework – outlines the key skills and attributes students should be developing at Bristol.
  • Your unit or programme ILOs – these may not explicitly mention skills, but can be a helpful reminder of the skills and attributes you set out to develop. E.g. from the learning outcome ‘Construct a reasoned argument about a poet(s) or poem(s) supported by appropriate use of evidence and analysis, and close attention to form and technique’, you could pick out the following skills: written communication for different audiences, analytical skills, and attention to detail.

2. Enhancing employability in your unit or programme

Having reflected on where and how your curriculum already helps students to develop skills, knowledge, and attributes, how can you enhance what you’re already doing? Here are some suggestions:

Use a range of teaching and assessment methods

The teaching and assessment methods you choose will impact the skills and attributes your students develop. For example, providing opportunities for students to work together, problem solve and actively engage with their learning are all approaches that enhance employability skills. Using a range of different methods is also important, to ensure that a variety of student learners are catered for. Of course it’s not possible, nor desirable, for an individual unit to meaningfully cover all skills – but we can reasonably expect students to have the opportunity to develop a rounded skill set across their entire programme.

As you’d expect, our friends in BILT have a lot of resources to help you with teaching and assessment methods to enhance students’ skills:

  • Active Learning Cookbook – tips on integrating more active and collaborative learning into teaching, which allows students to engage employability skills such as problem solving, analysis, synthesis, communication and interpersonal.
  • Embedding Innovation and Enterprise – key points on integrating a variety of skills associated with innovation and enterprise into your teaching.
  • Problem Based Learning – a student-centred approach to learning that supports the development of creativity and complex problem-solving.
  • Group Work – advice for integrating or enhancing group work within your curriculum.
  • Dissertation Alternatives – these can offer opportunities for employability skills development.
  • Blended learning case studies – examples of how different schools are delivering engaging blended teaching and assessment.

For ideas on innovation around assessment methods, you may find Advance HE’s Assessment Game useful.

The good news is that it’s likely you will already be thinking about some of these in other contexts, which brings us nicely to our core message – that employability can be seen as an added benefit to work you’re already doing to develop an engaging and challenging learning experience.

Support students to recognise their skills

It’s one thing for you to recognise how your unit or programme develops your students – it’s another to give your students the language to articulate it. To ensure that students recognise how their studies are helping to prepare them for their future success, we need to help them to make this link. Our upcoming blog post on helping students to recognise and articulate their value will give advice on this.

Provide opportunities for real-world learning

Real-world learning methods are another fantastic way to integrate skills development in the curriculum. Watch out for our upcoming blog posts on real-world learning and Engaged learning for ideas and advice on this, as well as some examples of good practice already taking place at Bristol.

Help students make the link with their future

To encourage students to make the most of opportunities to explore and develop during their time at university, we need to support them to make connections between what they are learning and experiencing now, and where they want to be in the future. We’ll be saying more on this later in the series!

We would love to hear from you. How are you enhancing employability through your units or programmes? What else do you need advice or inspiration on in order to do this?

Share your feedback to help us develop our advice and guidance in the coming months. Get in touch with Ellen (Faculty Employability Manager) at ellen.grace@bristol.ac.uk.

News

Employability in the curriculum – why does it matter?

This ‘Employability in the curriculum’ blog series is brought to you by the Faculty Employability Team at the Careers Service. These blogs are designed to give you practical advice and ideas to get started with enhancing how your curriculum prepares students for their future success.

Many of us in the Careers Service have been participating in BILT’s fantastic Digital Design course over the past few weeks – and we’ve been inspired by all the innovative ideas and practice being developed across the University. You may wonder what that has to do with employability.

Well, we wanted to take this opportunity to start a conversation about the impact of the transformation of teaching and assessment on not only students’ current academic experience, but on their future life after university too. This is the first in a series of short blogs sharing practical advice, ideas, and inspiration to think about how you can realise and enhance this impact through your practice.

To kick things off, we thought we’d share our thoughts on what ‘employability’ is, why it matters, and why we think it has everything to do with the curriculum.

What is ‘employability’?

‘Employability’ as a term can be confusing, with various definitions in different contexts. It’s also not always a popular guest in conversations around the curriculum, sometimes bringing a perceived threat of making education transactional, or detracting from research-led, rich academic teaching.

But this doesn’t have to be the case. At the Careers Service we define employability simply as the skills, knowledge and attributes which equip students for life and work after university. Which makes our role essentially to help students succeed in their lives beyond their studies – a holistic approach to employability, which is also integral in our university’s vision for education. The engaging, innovative and challenging curriculum of the curriculum framework is one which prepares students to take their next steps.

And why are we talking about it now?

This is more important now than ever – current students will be entering a challenging graduate labour market, with fewer opportunities to gain work experience during their studies. Realising and enhancing the potential of the curriculum therefore becomes even more crucial to their future success. Whatever your feelings towards the term ‘employability’ itself, we can all agree that students’ academic experience should help them to get to where they want to be in the future.

So, what does this mean for the curriculum?

The Careers Service aspiration is that, through their academic studies, every student has the opportunity to:

  • Develop, recognise, and articulate their skills, knowledge, and attributes.
  • Apply their learning to real world contexts and gain insight into the world of work. E.g., through Engaged Learning , other authentic learning or work experience.
  • Connect these two things to the demands of and opportunities in the labour market and effectively plan their next steps.

Enhancing employability often means simply surfacing the benefits of existing pedagogic approaches, and the skills and attributes innate to the subject. It is not necessarily about doing more or adding things in, but might be a case of making small changes which can have a significant impact for students.

How can you do this in practice?

Clearly enhancing employability requires us working together, and the expertise of the Careers Service is here to help you. This series of blogs will provide you with practical advice and ideas to get started, and share some of the fantastic practice already happening across the institution.

Look out for our next posts which cover topics including surfacing employability already in your programmes, helping students to recognise and articulate their skills, and developing opportunities for real-world learning.

We would love to hear from you too.

  • How are you enhancing employability through your units or programmes?
  • What else do you need advice or inspiration on in order to do this?

Share your feedback to help us develop our advice and guidance in the coming months. Get in touch with Ellen (Faculty Employability Manager) at ellen.grace@bristol.ac.uk.