Embedding employability in the curriculum

Exterior photo of Students Union with people outsideEmployability is a key element of the University's Education Strategy. This page provides guidance and resources for supporting students’ employability through your curriculum and your teaching practice.

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What is employability?

There are numerous definitions, approaches and a wide literature on the pedagogy of employability. Drawing on this literature, the Careers Service has created some core principles of employability good practice and some resources to support academic departments to recognise and develop employability within your programmes.

  • One widely cited definition of employability is that developed by Knight and Yorke (2003): “A set of achievements - skills, understandings and personal attributes - that make individuals more likely to gain employment and be successful in their chosen occupations, which benefits themselves, the workforce, the community and the economy”.
  • Dacre, Pool & Sewell (2007), translated the Knight and Yorke approach to a more accessible model for students (and other stakeholders). This CareerEDGE approach recognises that employability relies upon learners attaining confidence, self belief and self esteem through their reflection and evaluation of:
  1. Career development learning
  2. Experience gained from work, academic and life situations
  3. Degree subject knowledge understanding and skills
  4. Generic skills
  5. Emotional intelligence

Trends in employment and employability

  • In today’s world graduate careers and skills needs in almost every profession are in a state of almost constant evolution. In many sectors of the economy changes are happening very rapidly. Many graduate employers report that the skills and qualities they look for have changed significantly in the past few years. This evolution is often in response to advances in technology, such as artificial intelligence, big data and new materials, the so-called 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR).
  • These factors are impacting the way jobs are done and changing career pathways in nearly every sector. New graduate job roles and job titles are emerging every year, with many that simply didn’t exist even two years ago.
  • A further development (5IR) is now emerging as the world seeks to manage the ethics and impact of the technology developed during 4IR. This focus on making the world ‘better’ rather than simply more productive is also linked to many of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs).

Preparing for careers of the future

  • Predictable linear careers are almost a thing of the past, so preparing oneself for a single known career track is an increasingly risky approach. Careers are now increasingly unpredictable, so we all need a range of appropriate, and possibly new, skills and attributes to navigate these more complex career trajectories.
  • So, employability is also the ability to review, reflect and possibly redirect one's career; to have the personal and career resilience to cope with what is now a fast-evolving career landscape; enabling individuals to continue to “gain employment and be successful” (Knight and Yorke (2003)).

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How to embed employability in your curriculum

1. Sheffield Graduate Attributes (SGA)

Programmes should identify where students are given opportunities to develop graduate skills and attributes, articulate these to students and make explicit links with relevant SGAs (and professional body requirements where appropriate)

2. Skills reflection and development – mySkills tool

Programmes should actively encourage students to reflect upon the academic and extra-curricular experiences they have undertaken, identify and record the skills and attributes demonstrated and set goals for future development. The mySkills tool, available to every student at every level, is a useful conduit for this. mySkills is an online portfolio and personal development tool for students, exclusive to University of Sheffield. You can see how mySkills works in this brief video and the Careers Service can give you access to a test account on request. Contact your link Careers & Employability Consultant for more information.

3. Opportunities for work-based placements or authentic work-related learning

Students should have the opportunity, if wished, of completing a work-based placement – whether via an integrated Year in Industry programme or switching to a Degree with Employment Experience. Where this is not possible, programmes should ideally provide authentic work-related learning opportunities within the curriculum. The Careers Service can provide advice and support for departments. Contact your link Careers & Employability Consultant for more information.

4. Employability support and signposting

  • Encourage students to be actively engaged in their own personal, academic and employability development and prompt planning for their ongoing development beyond graduation.
  • Provide students opportunities to explore their future options, as well as supporting them to make well informed decisions within their academic journey (understanding the implications of these decisions in relation to future options).
  • Ensure academic staff know where / how students can access university support services and have the knowledge to signpost students with confidence within programmes and through personal tutorials.

The resources below can support you with this.

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Useful resources

The following resources can help you address employability within the design and development of programmes.

Embedding mySkills in your programme

This brief document introduces the mySkills portfolio tool and makes suggestions of how it can be used in your programme. It also contains links to further resources and advice.

Student journey

This document provides a handy guide to employability based activities and opportunities open to students at different stages of their course. The guide is organised along employability themes that students should ideally explore to successfully progress through their career planning journey:

  • self awareness,
  • opportunity awareness,
  • decision making, and
  • transition management.

Signpost sheets for personal tutors and PGR supervisors

These two quick reference guides, one for those working with UGs and PGTs and one for those supporting researchers, are designed to act as an ‘aide memoire’ when you are having ‘careers’ related conversations. Focusing on key topics likely to interest your students or researchers, they highlight some key resources on the Careers Service website alongside relevant workshops, fairs and other events. It is envisaged you can use the information in the guide in personal tutorial conversations, promotional resources - you can even print a copy for your noticeboard!

Personal tutor signpost sheets

PGR supervisor signpost sheets

Employability themed group tutorial programme

These tutorial session outlines are intended as suggestions from which you can ‘pick & mix’ and draw inspiration in order to create a programme of employability/career development themed tutorials appropriate for your students and within the context of your programme.

Workshops for tutors with advice on having careers conversations

We know that colleagues in departments, particularly tutors, often find themselves having careers-related conversations with students. We can arrange training workshops for groups of staff within a department or faculty with advice on how best to handle these conversations and useful up-to-date signposting information. Please contact your link Careers & Employability Consultant for further details.

Find the Careers Service contact for your department

Approaches to Engaging employers and alumni in your programme

This document provides some inspiration and ideas for how you can capitalise upon employer and alumni relations within your programme and to address employability with your students.

Writing references for students

Guidance for academic staff who do not have much experience of writing references for students or graduates applying for jobs or further study/research.

If you are a member of University staff and have trouble accessing any of the resources, please email the Careers Service - careers@sheffield.ac.uk

Support from the Careers Service

The Careers Service can provide tailored support on embedding employability in your programmes. We are also keen to receive feedback on the above documents and hear your ideas for future development.

Find the Careers Service contact for your department

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Further information

Further reading