Employability Strategy

Models, methods & approaches to introduce & embed employability in pre-18 & post-18 education

Employability is a word that is often misunderstood, not least by those who most need to benefit from it. It is often used to mean ’employment’, but they are not the same.

Employability has been summarised and defined in different ways by many different careers professionals, researchers and employers, as well as senior higher education managers. It can be most easily understood as being the complement to ‘Careers’ (the personal journey of discovery and the setting of goals for work), because employability is the set of assets (transferable skills, attributes, experience and sometimes knowledge/specialist skills) you accumulate through education and work and other experiences, that you deploy to achieve your career goals. And even if you don’t have a career goal, being aware of your accumulated employability will help you successfully enter work, even to do something that wouldn’t be your first choice.

Employability is often considered to be interdependent with work experience; in other words, if you don’t have any work experience, you aren’t employable. My research and practice has focused on breaking down this preconception and proposing other ways to understand how employability is developed when work experience isn’t available. So while work experience is really valuable to help individuals test out their career ideas and introduce them to the workplace, it is not the sole source of employability development. That is essential for reasons of social justice, as well as when creating education strategy.

In pre-18 education ‘Employability’ is rarely heard or talked about, for some of the reasons above. Yet supporting learners in schools and colleges to recognise how their academic learning is already developing the transferable skills and attributes they will need to enter and navigate the workplace is core to helping them develop their employability, even when they don’t know what they want to do. My research and practice shows how this can be done effectively, which is essential to help pre-18 learners make thier first big career decisions and make effective transitions to work post-secondary education or later. You can watch a video where I summarise the key points of this research and practice here.

I was so inspired by ways to think differently about skills and curriculum in Kate’s workshop that I am going away to redesign my programme. [Senior academic, UK research-led university]

Universities, on the other hand, often have plans and strategies for employability, which have implications for education and curriculum, for employer and business partnership, for academic colleagues and careers services. These strategies are often driven by concern about employment metrics, but they can be contested spaces where academic integrity can feel at risk, and inequity of access for students is not guaranteed. My research and practice – which underpins my consultancy to universities across the UK, Europe, North America, South Africa and Australasia – demonstrates alternative practical, achievable and measurable approaches to developing student employability through curriculum that is inclusive for students and academics alike.

Kate was incredibly professional….It is a testament to her work and its impact that we have now grown the project and this work is thriving. [Senior manager, UK university]

If you would like me to work with you on developing or applying an employability strategy, including on creating a taxonomy or framework of transferable skills, please visit the Contact page and send me an email.