Exploring an approach to embedding employability skills in a Work Integrated Learning curriculum

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Research and Development in Higher Education: Curriculum Transformation Vol. 40

June, 2017, 455 pages
Published by
Ruth Walker & Simon Bedford

Higher Education Institutes face rising challenges within a changing global context that is re-defining the needs of industry, and consequently the needs of students. Lees (2002) contends that employers seek graduates demonstrating self-efficacy and agency, which in turn support graduates’ beliefs and attitudes that enable critical reflection and adaptation to contextual variations. Macquarie University, Sydney, identified that students undertaking work-integrated learning (WIL) placements through the Professional and Community Engagement (PACE) program, are often ill-prepared for dealing with the nuances of on-site work experience activities.

This action research study explores the connection between theoretical approaches and attitudes to the notion of employability, aligned with, and embedded within curriculum. The study is based upon an exploration of the use of an Assessment Centre (AC), as a component of a PACE unit, for enhancing the ‘soft skills’ capabilities of undergraduate students.  Developed and administered by post-graduate psychology students (assessors), the AC assists students in identifying gaps in soft skills, and then, setting goals and determining strategies for improvement.  

A review of current literature provides little evidence of the use of AC's for enhancing graduate employability. Preliminary findings from a pilot study have provided a positive response from students and evidence of increased performance in areas of communication, influence and negotiation, collaboration and problem solving. The broader research findings will be presented following both a statistical analysis and a comparative critical analysis of the data around these themes. This research is at the forefront of enhancing employability skills of higher education graduates.

Keywords: employability skills, assessment centres, work-integrated learning

Exploring an approach to embedding employability skills in a Work Integrated Learning curriculum

pdf (356.5 KB)
McLachlan, K., Yeomans, L., & Lim, K-Z-G.