02 SES 09 B, Work-Based Learning: Basic Skills and Curriculum Innovations
Parallel Paper Session
In 2010, the Quality Assurance Agency for higher education (QAA) published a report identifying the need to set-up an employer responsive provision that would instigate and maintain a greater involvement from employers within academia to consider such initiatives as the accreditation of work-based learning. Due to increased competitiveness amongst higher education institutions (HEIs) and a shortage of graduate jobs, academics are concerned about their students’ employability prospects and need to pay particular attention to the employability agenda within an academic framework. With an increase in tuition fees, students are keen to ensure that their time spent at HEIs is providing value for money. Recent initiatives such as the higher education achievement report (HEAR) have also become part of a larger, national debate as institutions are beginning to ask their students to highlight their other, non-academic achievements and be able to showcase their attributes.
The acquisition of employability skills has always proved an interesting topic of debate within the academic community; it has routinely been suggested that by possessing an employability-skill set, graduates invariably leave academia with better employment prospects (for example UKCES 2009). However, there is also much to suggest that we are still moving one step forwards and two back in nurturing both our desires (Barrie 2004) and our abilities (Atlay & Harris 2000) to create some form of lasting legacy pertaining to the development of employability skills within curricula. Part of the difficultly is that employability skills have never become a central feature of the curriculum with Cranmer (2006) suggesting that there are still difficulties related to effectively teaching these skills. Her research findings concluded that employment-based experience and similar opportunities would result in a better use of resources and have greater impact upon development than modifying curricula to accommodate the teaching of skills. Earlier work carried out by Drummond et al. (1998), however suggests that it is absolutely necessary for the skills development to be part of a structured and coherent curriculum design framework for it to be effective.
Chadha (2005) provides a model for the development of students’ employability skills by highlighting the most effective pathway for this development. This model was developed in an engineering setting and drew upon research conducted for a PhD thesis. It was based upon the premise that curriculum intervention is a fundamental element in supporting the development of employability skills. This model was prepared within academia and has been useful in terms of generating discussion around curriculum intervention and employability skills. However, the employer perspective of the model has not been considered to date. Bearing in mind that those working in industry are effectively the end users of our graduates’ skills, it is worth asking whether the model fulfils employer expectations of the student learning experience in terms of students’ development and articulation of their attributes.
Atlay, M. & Harris R. (2000), An institutional approach to developing students' transferable skills. Innovations in Education and Training International, 37(1), 76-81 Barrie, S. (2004). A research-based approach to generic graduate attributes policy, Higher Education Research & Development, 23(3), 262–275 Chadha, D. (2005), considering a Teaching Framework to support the development of Transferable Skills in Engineering Undergraduate Students, Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Surrey Cohen, L., Manion, L. & Morrison, K. (2007), Research Methods in Education, 6th Ed. London and New York: Routledge publications Cranmer, S. (2006), Enhancing graduate employability: best intentions and mixed outcomes, Studies in Higher Education, 31(2), 169-184 Denzin, N.K. & Lincoln, Y.S. (Eds.) (2000), Handbook of Qualitative Research, 2nd Ed. Thousand Oaks, London & New Delhi: Sage publications Drummond, I., Nixon, I. & Wiltshire, J. (1998), Personal transferable skills in higher education: The problems of implementing good practice, Quality Assurance in Education, 6(1), 19–27 Kvale, S. (1996), Interviews. London: Sage publications The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education, (2010), Employer-response Provision Survey: A reflective report, QAA, ISBN 978 1 84979 068 0 UK Commission for Employment and Skills (2009), The Employability Challenge, UKCES, 1/1K/02.09
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