Another piece from guest blogger Liz Ponsford from Careers Unlimited on what schools can do to improve students' chances of getting a good job.
Most definitions of employability read something like this:
“Employability is the development of skills, abilities and personal attributes that enhance students’ capability to secure rewarding and satisfying outcomes in their economic, social and community lives”
For universities the concept of student employability is high on the agenda. Around 83% of students say that the enhanced career prospects is one of the main reasons they have chosen to go into Higher Education, so it is essential that the universities can deliver. HE Advisers stress the importance of students taking a proactive role in developing their employability from day one of their studies rather than leaving it to the final term.
But why wait? Sixth form students too need to gain an understanding of employability and its importance before they head off to university (or straight into work). Most students will know about skills like communication, teamwork, and being organised. However, the changing workplace of the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution” will require a different set of skills to be employable in some of the growing areas of artificial intelligence and machine learning, robotics, nanotechnology, 3D printing, genetics, and biotechnology. The Future of Jobs, a report published by the World Economic Forum, predicts the need for aptitudes and skills such as increased cognitive flexibility, emotional intelligence, creativity, and complex problem solving.
So how can schools support their students to achieve high academic grades, whilst developing the all important skills, attributes and qualities needed to be employable in an increasingly complex workplace?
1. “Make explicit that which is tacit”...
As a teacher, you know the skills and attributes used and developed during an Advanced Level course, but do your students recognise that through preparing and delivering a presentation they have developed one of the many skills required by employers? There are countless other examples.
2. “Don’t reinvent the wheel”...
The curriculum addresses many aspects of employability. Talk to colleagues and make an audit of activities that take place every day in school that support the development of employability. For example, take history. Students learn to research and analyse facts to identify truth and propaganda. Being able to think critically and evaluate information are crucial employability skills.
Encourage students to demonstrate they can take responsibility for their own learning and development by taking a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course).
3. Value work related activities...
Often students find it hard to recognise the importance of the skills they learn within the most routine part time jobs. A kitchen porter is working under pressure to deadlines, whilst a shop assistant is communicating and identifying customer need. Work can be unpaid, students who volunteer, whether it is helping to teach ICT to older people at the local library, assisting at a primary school or offering time to be a peer mentor, students can develop their emotional intelligence and ability to teach others.
Work experience, business days, and employer-based projects offer valuable opportunities for students to gain a greater awareness of the demands of industry, including the need to be flexible and creative in their approach. Students can actively participate in marketing themselves through the application process, and once completed students have the opportunity to reflect on their learning. Unfortunately, work experience is not compulsory in schools, and with universities demanding high grades, the temptation is for teachers and students to focus on purely academic achievement, a trend concerning the Institute of Directors.
4. Make the most of support available...
Linking with the Careers and Enterprise company is a way to access support to develop student employability. Established in 2015, the CEC is working in partnership with the Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPS) to put in place an Enterprise Adviser network, pairing senior business volunteers with individual educational establishments.
The company have awarded funding to projects throughout the country that aim to build links between industry and education. The company website offers a range of helpful resources.
The Career Development Institute have produced the Framework for Careers, Employability and Enterprise which is a practical resource for teachers covering all aspects including employability and makes suggestions as to how learning outcomes can be achieved.
5. Encourage extracurricular interests...
As students progress up the school, there is a tendency for them to reduce the extra curricular activities they take part in; however 70% of businesses believe that these activities are important, often making a student stand out from the crowd. Taking part in sport, playing an instrument, or belonging to a youth group shows commitment, perseverance, and teamwork. An unusual hobby or passion for something - anything! - can contribute to students employability, as the experiences gained can be translated into skills, attributes and qualities like problem solving, risk taking and initiative.
Embrace technology (bonus #6!)...
Finally, one aspect of employability where students are likely to be ahead of their teachers is proficiency in the use of digital technology, including the understanding of social media and its applications within the workplace. In the future, businesses will connect and collaborate remotely with freelancers and independent professionals through digital talent platforms. It is worth noting that 95% of graduate employers currently use social media in their recruitment activity. Students should be aware too that 50% of employers viewed candidates’ social media profiles before making a job offer!
In conclusion, lots of good work is being done in schools to support students to become more employable. Now the challenge is getting the young people themselves to recognise the value of this work, and to encourage them to take an active role in gaining the skills, qualities, and attributes needed to enter and progress within their chosen career area.