Employability refers to the additional skills and competencies that an individual gains as they progress through higher education, which improve and enhance their employment and career. 

The Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) adds that employability consists of knowledge, skills and social capital.

Why does this matter?

A recent report from Universities UK makes it clear that providers need to engage employers to ensure that students are ready for work.

 The CBI emphasise the same point. They note that:

‘over the years, our research has consistently shown that the attitudes and aptitudes that will enable graduates to be effective in the workplace rank ahead of formal qualifications. Students and higher education institutions must not lose sight of the importance of all-round development’.

A report published by the Personal Social Services Research Unit at the London School of Economics and Political Science highlights that young people with a mental health condition are more likely to experience difficulties in their future employment.

Effective practice

Activities to improve the employability of students are most effective where they run throughout the student lifecycle and across the whole of the provider. 

This means that professional services should be joined up. Careers and information services should, for example, align with the work of academic departments or teaching units and employers. 

It also means that providers should try to understand how different groups of students may need tailored support. They might, for example, look at ways to help students get work experience but also embed wider skills in the curriculum, such as analytical skills, team working and project planning.

 If a provider receives Higher Education Innovation Funding (HEIF), they can consider how this funding may help with their employability strategy or developing particular activities, such as entrepreneurship modules within programmes.

Providers can support the employability of underrepresented students through approaches that are either embedded in the curricula, extra-curricular or a combination of both.

Aston University’s 'Levelling the Playing Field' approach uses the power of placements to help BAME students, those from low socio-economic backgrounds and disabled students succeed in the work place. This approach addresses some of the unfair differences these groups face compared with other students.

Working with Birmingham City University, City, University of London and Ulster University, the approach employs five different mechanisms to enhance the employability of students from underrepresented groups:

  • professional mentoring
  • micro-placements
  • recruitment matching service
  • speed-recruitment events
  • embedded employability modules.

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