Michelle Blackburn, Chantelle Trickett & Jessica Foster
Parallel session 1, Short Paper 1.6
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The paper explores how a new module, with a distinct technical HR employability focus (that involves website design skills), impacts upon student’s placement seeking success. It explores this theme through interviews with students and placement employers before evaluating the benefits and challenges of devising ‘authentic learning experiences’ to support employability skills development.
This paper considers whether a first year Human Resource (HR) skills module for Business and HRM (Human Resource Management) undergraduates has realised any employability-related benefits. The module requires students to work in teams to build a corporate HR intranet using Google Sites. Student undertaking this assessment develop their team working, communication, negotiation and project management skills amongst others. Additionally they develop and formalise their HR knowledge and apply it to a specific company context.
To establish whether the module had the desired impact upon employability 10 employers (who had recruited students from this course onto year-long placements) and 12 former students (currently on placement) were interviewed to evaluate how the module design had impacted upon placement seeking success.
Data categorised according to 3 themes identified by Andrews and Higson (2008) found that ‘Business Specific’ subject knowledge/expertise was not relevant for all employers with 60% of them listing general business and psychology degrees as example pre-cursors for HR recruits. However, 40% of employers were very interested in course-related HR skills development. They tended to be the organisations with smaller local HR departments. By interesting comparison 75% of students felt that their HR degree made a difference.
The second theme, Interpersonal Competence (soft skills) was valued by all employers and just over 80% of students. Both groups acknowledged this was mostly identified during interview/assessment centre activities.
The final theme, Work Experience also had a significant role to play in the selection decision. Half of employers suggested student’s previous work experience had a significant role to play in short-listing decisions. Nearly 60% of students felt it made a significant difference to their application and selection success.
These findings suggest that the employment market is nuanced, and simply having the right titles and employability skills development strategy does not guarantee success.