Employability can be defined as:
‘a set of achievements – skills, understandings and personal attributes – that make graduates more likely to gain employment and be successful in their chosen occupations, which benefits themselves, the workforce, the community and the economy’
Professor Mantz Yorke (2004) 'Employability in Higher Education: what it is - what it is not', Higher Education Academy/ESECT
Employability is not the same as gaining a graduate job, rather it implies something about the capacity of the graduate to function in a job and be able to move between jobs, thus remaining employable throughout their life.
The USEM model (Knight and Yorke, 2004) outlines employability as four broad and inter-related components:
- Skilful practices (including deployment of skills)
- Efficacy beliefs (including students views of themselves)
- Meta-cognition (including self-awareness and a capacity to reflect on learning)
Want to read more?
For an excellent introduction to employability written for academic staff see the briefing: Employability in higher education: what it is – what it is not (M. Yorke, HE Academy/ESECT, Learning & Employability Series).
How is employability being addressed at Edinburgh?
The University responded to the drive to enhance employability across the HE sector by successfully bidding for strategic funding from the Scottish Funding Council. Building on and continuing this, through the University's Employability Initiative, the following have been established:
The Employability Initiative is…
Aligned with the University’s Strategic Plan
One of the four aims in the University’s mission statement is to ‘produce graduates fully equipped to achieve the highest personal and professional standards ’.
The Strategic Plan for 2012-2016 references student employability and graduate attributes throughout, in particular:
- ‘embed[ing] graduate attributes and employability in all our curricula, and equip our students to compete in the global marketplace’;
- ‘producing graduates with socially and economically valuable attributes and expertise’;
- ‘increase[ing] student satisfaction with the opportunities and support for developing their graduate attributes and employability’;
- ‘equip[ing] our graduates with the expertise and graduate attributes they need to achieve their full potential within the global community’; and
- ‘brokering strategic partnerships between academics, industry, specialists and other institutions to enhance the development of graduate attributes in all students’.
Linked to the Learning and Teaching Strategies for each College
Employability is mentioned either implicitly or explicitly in the Learning and Teaching Strategies for each of the Colleges. Good learning, teaching and assessment practices foster attributes valued in the labour market and contribute to student employability.
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Desirable outcomes for the Employability Initiative:
- define a set of generic graduate attributes for the Edinburgh context and actively promote these and the whole range of ways in which they may be developed;
- ensure that explicit connection is made between specific academic activity and employability, building on the employability profiles produced by the Higher Education Academy;
- establish career development learning, at an appropriate stage, and in subject focussed groups, as part of the academic experience for all students; and
- encourage students to gain a range of work and other experience, to participate fully in the university community and to understand the value of all such activity in enhancing their employability.