A #HEated debate on #employability

Employability has moved into focus recently, with a number of articles here and here, looking at the concept more critically. I’ll leave finding a definition to another day (maybe we should give it a crack at the PlaceNet conference in May – I’m declaring an interested here, as I’m the chair). What I repeated learn about the term is that it invariably invokes strong feelings – feelings of anxiety among professionals (who are supposed to ‘deliver’ the employability strategy of their institutions), frustration with an alleged lack of work place skills in young people (as bemoaned by employers – often in the face of little evidence), and a ranging from a decided ‘meh’ to outright resistance from students. I’ve repeatedly shared my thoughts about reductionist approaches which I think have a negative influence on academia, specifically outcomes based learning – and the obsession with simplifying what is a complex matter (the skills, attributes and attitudes influencing someone’s chances of securing employment, holding on to it – or developing their own business) into a set of numbers: 6-month destination and salary figures as exemplified in the KISS statistics. I’m not sure what I’m learning from this at the moment – perhaps its just a review of my past year trying to make sense of the developments in my field – besides that ‘employability’ as a concept needs to be scrutinised and analysed more thoroughly than I’ve done so before, and that institutional efforts are often just as uncoordinated as the approaches of those in need of learning about employability.

March 6th, 2013 by