Embedding Employability Skills into the Curriculum

An article by Mr Austin Chia

Employability skills have increasingly become a notable focus for universities, graduates, employers, and policymakers in Australia. As business educators, we are confronted with the challenging task of covering more in our curriculum to facilitate students’ mastery of work-relevant knowledge and skills. Broadly defined, employability skills refer to transferable skills that encompass a range of social and emotional competencies that are necessary for success in the labour market (Bridgstock, 2009). It is evident that our Faculty embeds these transferable skills into its programs expressed as either learning outcomes, generic skill or graduate attributes and are integral in various teaching and learning activities. With increasing pressures from accreditation, regulation and professional bodies to meet certain standards and level of quality, there is growing impetus for tertiary educators to embed employability skills in the way they design and deliver their courses.

So, what does the future of work demand of our graduates? Earlier this year, the World Economic Forum published an Insight Report detailing 10 critical skills that employees need to possess to add value in their workplaces (see Figure 1). Embedding these 10 skills in course design should simultaneously develop students’ technical and soft skills; these are not mutually exclusive skill areas. Technical skills provide students with important foundations to commence their careers, whilst soft skills are critical for career advancement and fulfilment.

Figure 1: Employability Skills of the Future
(Adapted from the ‘2018 Future of Jobs Reports’)

Here in the Faculty of Business and Economics (FBE), there are numerous examples of innovative teaching practices that seek to enhance the employability skills of students. Specifically, this post will highlight three deliberative practices.

  1. Assessment Design: Too often, assessments are designed to evaluate students’ mastery of content without broader consideration of employability skills. Courses should offer an assessment mix that promotes the development of both technical and soft skills. For instance, exams and multiple-choice quizzes may be used to evaluate technical competencies while case-based or group assessments may be used to develop skills such as cognitive flexibility, creativity and people management. An exemplar of an ideal assessment mix is ACCT90030 Information Processes & Control which features in the WCLA Good Teaching Series (see “Embedding employability skills into assessment practice”).  In ACCT90030, students work in terms to address realistic business problems and present their solutions to an assessment panel who provide feedback on discipline knowledge and skills areas pertaining to employability.

  2. Formative Feedback.  To improve on their generic skills, students require ongoing feedback on their development that needn’t be based on formal assessments. For instance, in MKTG20008 Strategic Marketing, Shala Ahmed uses varied feedback techniques (e.g. Immediate Feedback scratch cards and ‘Trade Show’ simulations) in lectures and tutorials to promote the development of graduate attributes (read about her experiences here). In MGMT2001 Organisational Behaviour, tutors are trained to be coaches and are required to provide feedback to students on areas such as team work, collaborative problem solving and critical thinking.  

    3. Practitioner Input: To understand the requisite skills of the future, it’s important to stay abreast of industry developments. Why not seek\ practitioner input on your course design? From personal experience, many practitioners relish the opportunity to provide feedback and ideas on courses. For example, in MGMT30012 Management Consulting, I sought practitioner input in the design of assessment and the development of consulting methodologies taught (for more details see my practice article ‘Distilling the Essence of the McKinsey Way’).

Want further information and support?

The Melbourne Centre for the Study of Higher Education (CSHE) have developed the following resources for those interested in graduate employability: (1) Enacting strategies for graduate employability, and (2) Graduate communication skills.

If you would like to discuss how to incorporate employability skills in your course, please contact Austin Chia, Valerie Cotronei-Baird or Angelito Calma from the WCLA for a consult. Austin, Valerie and Angelito have extensive experience in curriculum design for employability skills.

Author: Austin Chia

Austin Chia is an Associate Lecturer with the WCLA and leads the centre’s Tutoring in Higher Education program. He has extensive experience in designing and delivering work-integrated learning subjects and his innovated teaching approaches has been recognized with various department- and faculty-level teaching awards and research grants.

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Mr Austin Chia