22 SES 01 B, Employability and Transition to Work of Higher Education Graduates
Parallel Paper Session
Recent research (Artess, Forbes, and Ripmeester 2011) has again suggested that students should primarily take responsibility for their own employability and be “placed at the centre of the process”. To help achieve this it is proposed that student opinion is “more actively investigated and tracked”. However, employability is a much contested concept, complex and multi-faceted which connects with multiple discourses, including disciplinary, social and personal (Yorke & Knight, 2004).
This paper has arisen from a longitudinal HEFCE funded project. It explores the experiences and perceptions of students who are enrolled on programmes in Education and Early Childhood Studies. It considers their views of their preparation for future employment and how they perceive themselves in future occupations.
It is based on empirical research conducted in 2004 and 2012 comprising questionnaire, focus group and interview data. A key aim was to investigate student opinion in the context of the international Higher Education employability arena via an English university’s efforts to investigate, evaluate and then improve its support to students on two Education courses.
In doing so it was aligning itself with the proposal of Haug and Tauch (2001:.21) who suggested that ‘enhanced employability seems to be the strongest source of change and reform in [European] higher education’. Although the term ‘employability’ per se is perhaps not widely used outside of the UK and is a much debated and complex term, other countries are equally concerned about the relationships between higher education and employment”( Little, 2003 :1).
The project, on course to be completed in summer 2012, draws on the work of Wenger (1999) regarding perceptions of possible professional identity “Exploration of who they are, who they are not, who they could be” (Wenger, 1998:272) together with the work of Einarsdottir (2006), acknowledging the significance of recognising participants as co- constructors of knowledge and practice.
It generated theory using Glaser and Strauss’s grounded theory, comparing and contrasting until robust proposals for change emerged. As a result, employability was more deeply embedded into the undergraduate curriculum, most notably with first year students. Amongst other interventions, a student profile was also introduced as part of taught sessions in the compulsory first year module.
The second tranche of data gathering and analysis will be completed in May 2012, closely following the methodology of the first.There will be an added component where the students will also be asked about their views around possible graduate study to potentially further enhance their employability prospects as Masters provision has become more widespread in the intervening years.
Although it has as its context the UK undergraduate curriculum, the paper demonstrates an appreciation of the different systems of both compulsory and higher education operating in other countries. This we achieved through sampling other relevant work, particularly international comparative studies. Although we prioritise findings that have particular interest from a UK perspective, we will offer conclusions that will be relevant to a wider audience.
Anderson, J. and Mitchell, H. (2006), Beyond the Subject Curriculum, Escalate/Higher Education Academy - http://escalate.ac.uk/2988 Artess, Forbes and Ripmeester (2011) BIS Research Paper No 40: Supporting Graduate employability: HEI Practice in other countries. Crown Copyright 2011, last accessed January 2012, www.bis.gov.uk Einarsdottir, J. and Wagner, J. ( 2006) (Eds.) Nordic Childhood and Early Education, Greenwich, Information Age Publishing Glaser, B. and Strauss, A. (1967) 'The discovery of grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research', Aldine Haug, G. and Tauch, C. (2001) Trends in Learning Structures in Higher Education (II). Follow-up Report prepared for the Salamanca and Prague Conferences of March / May 2001. http://www.oph.fi/publications/trends2/trends2.doc Little B.(2003) International perspectives on employability: A briefing paper by the Centre for Higher Education Research and Information. The Open University Plowright (2011) Using Mixed Methods: London, Sage Wenger, E.,(1998), Communities of Practice, New York, Cambridge University Press Yorke, M.; Knight, P. (2004) Employability: judging and communicating achievements, Learning and Employability Series No. 2, York: LTSN Generic Centre & ESECT
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