Embedding employability in the curriculum

Exterior photo of Students Union with people outsideEmployability is a key element of the University's Learning and Teaching Strategy. 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.

What is employability?

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”.

Knight and Yorke’s model for delivering employability in the curriculum strongly advocated the relationship between employability and good learning, and stressed that employability results from balancing achievements in four broad and interconnected areas:

Understanding - of subject discipline and how organisations operate.
Skilful practices - the ability to manage academic, employment and life challenges.
Efficacy - incorporating the learner’s sense of self awareness, self confidence and belief in their self development and improvement.
Metacognition - bringing together self awareness, self efficacy and personal reflection with the ability to apply learning and problem solving strategies to personal ongoing lifelong learning.

A diagram demonstrating a definition of employability

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:

Career development learning
Experience gained from work, academic and life situations
Degree subject knowledge understanding and skills
Generic skills
Emotional intelligence

A diagram showing a refined definition of employability

Both of these approaches recognise the central role of learning and teaching to the development of a student’s employability.

The Higher Education Academy’s framework for Defining and Developing your approach to employability (Cole and Tibby, 2013) summarised that employability:

  • Is a lifelong process.
  • Applies to all students irrespective of course or mode of study.
  • Is complex and involves a number of interrelated areas.
  • Requires us to support students to develop the knowledge, skills, attributes and behaviours that will equip them to be successful, not only in their careers but in life in general.
  • Is a university wide commitment the components of which need to be made explicit to students so they can manage this process throughout their lives.
Core elements of employability good practice for the curriculum

These core elements provide some starting points to consider when designing and delivering programmes.

Ideally programmes will:
1. Identify where students are given opportunities to develop graduate skills and attributes, articulate these to students and make explicit links with any Sheffield Graduate Attributes (and professional body requirements where relevant).

2. Provide opportunities for authentic work related learning or work based placement experience.

3. Actively encourage students to reflect upon the academic and extra-curricular experiences they have undertaken and identify and record the skills and attributes demonstrated.

4. Support students to be actively engaged in reviewing their own personal, academic and employability development and plan their ongoing development through the next stage of their programme/beyond graduation.

5. Provide opportunities for students to explore their future options.

6. Ensure knowledge and skills delivered within the programme are relevant to current and future job market needs.

7. Support students to make well informed decisions throughout their academic journey and to understand the implications of these decisions in relation to future options.

8. Support students to make transitions into placements or graduate outcomes.

9. Ensure academic staff have the knowledge and confidence to signpost to relevant support and know where/how to access university support services.

*NB These core elements are currently in draft format and await approval by the University Student Skills and Employability Group (SSEG).

Resources to support employability in your programme

With the above principles in mind, we have created the following resources to help you address employability within the design and development of programmes.

Employability programme review and development toolkit
This is a guide for programme design teams to identify, review and develop employability activities within a programme. The guide supports you to review if, how and where the core elements of employability good practice are delivered within the programme - and identify any gaps in provision. The toolkit template also encourages programme teams to evaluate the effectiveness of any employability activity, and identify potential areas for further development.

Employability programme review & development toolkit

Student journey
This document provides a handy guide to employability based activities and opportunities open to students at different stages of their programme. 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

Student journey

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.

Employability themed group tutorial programme

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.

Writing references for students

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

Page break

Further information

Further reading