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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.