Education for Employability

Dr Rafe Hallett, Director of the Keele Institute for Innovation and Teaching Excellence, has recently contributed to a new book about education for employability. Co-authored with Doug Cole, Deputy Director for Employability at Nottingham Trent University, the chapter focuses on the language of employability, and considers a shift from a lexicon focused on fixed skills, to broader, more fluid principles of higher education, including qualities and capabilities that encompass attitudes and behaviours.

Considering the shapers of the dominant rhetoric of employability, the authors found the lexicon focuses on skills and workplace readiness, but that this is too narrow and often attritional in relation to broader principles of higher education.

Dr Rafe Hallett comments:

“Notions of employability that recognise the kind of people we are and develop into, rather than merely reflecting an industry-enforced agenda of what we should know, or what we can do are preferable here. We can stretch the employability debate across a more varied and fertile terrain and into a progressive, shared language that students and academics might just be interested in.

“Attitudes and behaviours provide a richer montage of characteristics that we should be aspiring to address in our notion of employability, not the reductionist idea articulated in the sterile language of ‘skills’ alone.”

In the chapter, the authors offer an alternative taxonomy based on ‘dimensions’ for learning, designed to engage all stakeholders with embedding employability. The Dimensions for Learning taxonomy intends to reframe employability more explicitly as being about ongoing, focused and multi-contextual learning.


Education for employability - Dimensions for Learning

Doug Cole adds:

“Emphasising learning processes in addition to a broader set of learning objectives, this taxonomy has the potential to act as a benchmark or auditing tool for the range of learning opportunities available to our students, applying this as a program-level lens. In particular, it ensures that the language and thinking associated with employability is re-invested with the principles of modern universities, catalysts as they are for learning, experience and interpersonal opportunity, not just for the formation of industry-ready graduates.”

The book, Education for Employability (Vol 1), The Employability Agenda, has been published by BRILL and edited by Joy Higgs, Geoffrey Crisp and Will Letts and explores critical questions in the employability agenda such as: Who sets the standards and expectations of employability? How do students monitor their own employability? How can universities design whole curricula and university environments that promote employability? What teaching and learning strategies facilitate the development of employability?

For updates on Employability initiatives at Keele, see our Employability, Enterprise and Employer Engagement pages.