University of Wolverhampton (UNITED KINGDOM)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN17 Proceedings
Publication year: 2017
Pages: 9508-9515
ISBN: 978-84-697-3777-4
ISSN: 2340-1117
doi: 10.21125/edulearn.2017.0794
Conference name: 9th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 3-5 July, 2017
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Increasing employability and developing employability related skills in students is recognised as a major responsibility for United Kingdom (UK) higher education institutions (HEI’s) with establishments encouraged to embed employability throughout the curriculum. The challenge for the University of Wolverhampton (UoW) which is ranked 2nd in England with a 96% employability level for is graduating students is how to achieve further improvements within the changing regulatory environment of that faces UK HEI’s. This is underpinned by new government legislation represented by the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) that will amongst other things use employability as a key metric to assess quality of the courses provided and ultimately how much new students can be charged to undertake each academic pathway.

A university-wide study at UoW in 2016 of current students and alumni found that despite considerable effort to provide and embed employability skills across the curriculum, there were still gaps in student awareness of the services and support available. Key findings from an on-line questionnaire and separate depth-interviews indicated that students were aware of the Careers Advice and Guidance Services (52.3%) and services to provide part-time work placements (31.5%). However, awareness of the other services provided was low, falling within the range of 10.4 – 17.45%. Noticeably, curriculum based and apparently embedded initiatives were highlighted as the ‘least known’ initiatives at 3.36%.

Recommendations from this projects included better signposting of the relevance of employability skills to be made throughout the academic programme. Some contradiction was observed as to whether students were encouraged to use the services by academic staff or representatives of the services, suggesting a more consistent approach to the function of the services was required. Moreover, an aspect of students reticence to interact with the physical spaces inhabited by the various services was noted which warrants further investigation.

Achieving improvements in employability will be achieved by using TEF criteria and core metrics. This in-house research has identified areas for improvement with the objective of increasing the awareness and use of employability skills in the curriculum. This is a top-down, university-wide project to build on the reputation enjoyed by UoW for achieving high employability rates, recognising there is no room for complacency in maintaining and improving employability rates. Excellence in employability outcomes is a key attribute of the UoW brand and will continue to be a major factor in student recruitment.
Employability, Work-Based-Learning, TEF, Careers, Placements, Work-experience.