You said, we did! Engaging employers to create work-related learning pathways that reduce the gap between graduate and professional skills
Laura Roberts Senior Lecturer
College of Science
Professional, discipline specific skills are critical in STEM subjects, yet employers are increasingly dissatisfied with the competencies of new graduates. The aim of the present study was to reduce this gap between graduate skills and environmental-sector employer requirements by developing a work-related learning programme. A simplified three phase DACUM (Developing a Curriculum) approach was employed which consisted of surveying environmental employers for the graduate skills they seek, developing a field-based curriculum that aligned to those requirements and student evaluation of the skills and satisfaction. The employer survey provided a fundamental insight into the transferable and technical skills graduates require, which significantly influenced the content, delivery, assessment and apportioning of skills and knowledge of the learning pathway developed. A 15 credit HE Level 5 module was introduced to establish the fundamentals in field ecology. This provided the foundations to a 20 credit work-related learning HE Level 6 module which focused on developing the essential professional skills highlighted by employers (e.g. Phase 1 and Phase 2 habitat surveying and protected species surveys). Student evaluations identified the programme had enhanced their knowledge of potential employers, practical skills, CV and their employability. Additional benefits included enhancing student satisfaction and augmenting their engagement with the degree, while a more refined curriculum allowed effective allocation of resources and expertise. The significance of the findings is discussed in light of reducing the skills gap during a time of a more competitive job market and widening participation in HE, with reducing investment in the environmental sector.
This presentation will disseminate the outcomes of research that is focused on engaging employers within curriculum development to create work-base learning programes of study that enhance discipline-specific skills and knowledge. Although the case study presented is related to the ecological sector, the process and applications discussed should appeal to any discipline with a vocational pathway looking to refine their curriculum by enhancing the material provisioned and produce trained graduates that are employer ready. The presentation aims to draw in the audience by encouraging them to reflect on how discipline specific technical and transferable skills are currently provisioned and kept up-to-date in a landscape of increasing competition for technical jobs. We will then offer a simple best-practice innovative approach with wide-reaching impact to enhance student satisfaction and employability while refining resource allocations and curriculum designs.
Work-based learning, employer engagement, curriculum design
Engaging employers is the design of curriculum is essential if they are to remain competitive, inclusive and enhance the student experience and employability, especially in light of the of the current Higher Education reform