Infusing courses with employability skills: a work placement module example from psychology
Andrew Thomas Lecturer / Deputy Director of Employability
College of Human and Health Sciences
Dee Thyer, Employability Tutor and Director of Employability for CHHS
How can we best prepare final year students for the next step of their career? In this talk, we present one possibility – an optional work placement module integrating employability skills and psychology. In the previous academic year, a group of 20 students took part in 35-hour work placements in third party, clinical, and academic settings. To prepare them for the experience, students took part in an intensive training week where they practised key employability skills such as reflection, self-management, and communication. Assessment took the form of a portfolio of reflections surrounding the training and placement. Unique challenges and successes of the module will be discussed as well as future directions.
The aim of this presentation is to demonstrate how employability can be further integrated into an undergraduate course through work placement modules. These placements provide a different channel of teaching impact – the ability to develop key employability skills in students through the lens of their subject area and ultimately prepare them for the next stage in their careers.
As part of PSY305, students sourced a placement in an area of interest to them and their career agenda. Those interested in forensic psychology, for example, worked the police or charities supporting the families of prisoners. In contrast, those interested in career in research sourced placements with academics. Placements took the form of a full time working week, or a part-time arrangement spread over a number of weeks.
Before beginning their placements, students engaged in a weeklong “boot camp” where they explored and developed the key employability skills of self-management, communication, teamwork, business and customer awareness, and problem solving. They also developed self-reflective skills and were introduced to some key tools required to do this (e.g. the Kolb cycle). Finally, they reflected on their psychological background and the unique benefits this may bring to new workplaces (as well as challenges).
In addition to the boot camp, students engaged in an enhanced mock interview experience, where they were given the opportunity to interview for their placement position in front of a panel of academics in a realistic (and challenging setting).
Following their placements, students completed a portfolio (approx. 5000 words) called a Personalised Placement Learning Record. This formed the primary assessment of the module and was separated into three general sections: (1) a write-up and development of the skills taught during the boot camp week; (2) a reflective account of the mock interview; and (3) a reflective account of the work placement with a specific focus on the skills learned.
Overall the module was a success. Engagement was high and positive feedback was received both from students and placement providers. There were some cases of enduring relationships between the two parties upon module completion with some students offered permanent placements. In other cases, students discovered their true aspirations – some emerging more determined to follow their career paths of choice, and others reconsidering their options. We consider changes to be made for subsequent years to make the module even more innovative and impactful.
Employability, Psychology, Placement, Careers Exposure
Employability can be integrated in innovative and creative ways as part of final year content on BSc courses, helping students develop the key skills needed for their next step in life.