Tag Archives: employability

‘The Twain Shall Meet’- Designing and delivering innovative employer work-based programmes

Conor Moss

Parallel session 4, CoLab 4.5

Short Abstract:

The last 20 years has seen significant growth in Work-Based Learning as a distinct field of activity within universities rather than purely as a mode of learning within disciplinary or professional fields. It has long been acknowledged that high-level learning doesn’t just occur in lecture theatres, classrooms and other physical locations on university campuses, but goes on in many other locations too. This was explicitly recognised in Section B3 of the QAA Quality Code for HE in 2012.

Back to event programme

Since 2010 we have seen a change of government and whilst there are different methods for addressing workforce development the general thrust for higher-level work-based learning has endured. The current focus is on the development of Higher Apprenticeships through BIS funding and trailblazer projects and in the Employer Ownership of Skills (BIS, £250m).  These initiatives are a threat to our existing provision; consequently we need to evolve our offer to maintain competitiveness and relevance to business.

As a result of the changing external environment for the HE sector it is necessary that Sheffield Hallam University is able to respond to an ever more competitive environment and react to opportunities in an efficient and effective manner. Consequently, we have developed an Institutional Work-Based Learning Framework (WBLF) enabling subject teams to develop accredited provision efficiently and with central support.

This is an interactive session aimed at exploring how YOU can use the WBLF in YOUR subject area. We are particularly interested in exploring the development of institutional resources and expertise to support the following:

  • credit-rating of employer provision,
  • negotiated work-based projects,
  • academic credit from CPD coursesand
  • preparing students for APEL
  • This is an opportunity to influence the implementation of the University’s Employer Engagement strategy. We look forward to sharing the experiences of colleagues from a range of disciplines and further developing the Work-Based Learning Framework.

Adding value to your course offer: sponsored language study

Rachel Bower

Parallel session 2, Short paper 2.6

Listen to the presentation (opens in new window)

Short Abstract
What can we offer to add value to our courses? What are our competitors offering? In the context of research in progress, discover how sponsored language study can add value & differentiation to your course offer, a personalised learning experience, and wider graduate prospects for your students.

Back to event programme

Detailed Outline
This session will be of particular interest to course leaders, programme leaders, heads of departments and placement officers.

Higher Education in the UK is becoming more and more market-driven. In the light of these changes, it is appropriate to ask how we can differentiate the SHU student offer from our competitors.
This in progress research project presents the initial findings of a discourse analysis of the value-added activities for students promoted on the external websites of SHU and our key competitor post-1992 universities. The findings analyse re-occurring themes, and the extent to which institutions are diversifying from common themes (such as, the student experience and employability).

The session then proposes an option for adding value to a course offer through faculty-sponsored language study, where students apply for a limited number of places to study a language at an appropriate level as an additional module for one academic year. SHU’s University Language Scheme offers 7 languages from beginners and the majority to advanced levels, delivering personalised learning and a programme of intercultural activities.
Findings of the successful pilots of sponsored language study for level 5 students in SBS and level 4 students in D&S in 2013/14 and 2014/15 are analysed in terms of engagement, learning success in assessment, and motivation to continue learning the language.

The session makes the case for language study in developing key attributes required by graduate recruiters and widening students’ opportunities in the graduate employment market, and that the understanding of others’ culture and language is part of an holistic education.

Delegates will have the opportunity to discuss and question whether sponsored language study would add value to course offers.

Putting students in the hot seat: Using a Viva to assess and engage students in career development planning.

Karen Soulby

Parallel session 2,  Thunderstorm 2.2

Listen to the presentation (opens in new window)

Short Abstract
This paper looks at a module which has been designed holistically to use informal experiential learning and a module assessment package, a Viva, which requires students to actively engage in their own employability journey. The positive outcomes of this have been improved student engagement in their career development plans, high levels of student satisfaction, and improved student self-confidence.

Back to event programme

Detailed Outline
In response to the Sheffield Business School employability imperative, a student centred module was introduced onto the BSc Tourism Management programme. Entitled ‘Tourism Industry Experience’ the aim of the module is to focus students in their efforts to begin their career path and development at level 5. As each student has differing career goals, and the impetus to achieving these goals needs to come from within the individual the emphasis of the module was that it should be student driven and created. Formal lectures and seminars were eschewed as it was felt they may encourage students to rely on directed content which was against the aims of the module. With minimal input to outline the requirements of the module, the module leader sets the task for the students to individually research by a number of means possible, desirable career pathways, suitable employers, desirable jobs including the knowledge and skills required and a first-hand experiential account of that job. Students are encouraged to project their career path into the next 10 years and design a plan in order for them to achieve their goal. The module makes use of informal learning spaces and uses a field trip to an international industry B2B event to inspire students. An innovative assessment strategy, seldom seen at UG level, the Viva, was used. Students are asked to present their career plan over 15 minutes to the module leader without the use of technology and ideally without notes. A mock event is videoed to allow students to reflect on their performance.
This presentation will examine what happened when students were deprived of their pens, phones, tablets, laptops etc. and asked to talk about themselves and their future in an interview situation. Despite student protests when faced with the challenge, the benefits of the student focus of the exercise were clear.

The outcomes of the module were:

• High levels of student engagement in their career development process
• High levels of student achievement
• High levels of staff satisfaction
• Positive student feedback
• High levels of student stress and anxiety

Passion or Profession? Are the employability skills developed by first year Business and Human Resources Management students valued by placement providers?

Michelle Blackburn, Chantelle Trickett & Jessica Foster

Parallel session 1, Short Paper 1.6

Listen to the presentation (opens in new window)

Short Abstract
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.

Back to event programme

Detailed Outline
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.

Becoming the LinkedIn University: students and staff – developing our professional profiles together

Andrew Middleton & Sue Beckingham
@andrewmid / @suebecks

Parallel session 1, Short Paper 1.2

Listen to the presentation (opens in new window)

Short Abstract
Professional recognition and identity are important to all staff and students. How each of us fosters and maintains our professional identity is problematic. In this Social Digital Age maintenance of good reputation requires a fluent life-wide engagement with professional profiling as exemplified in the idea of a life-wide “LinkedIn University”.

Back to event programme

Detailed Outline
We report on the outcomes of our HEA Employability project which sought to promote student engagement in Personal & Professional Development Planning.

Not only is engagement in PPDP important to employability, it develops a student’s learning capability, and their sense of being and becoming. The project began by questioning where PPDP sits, challenging views of it being a teaching, learner support, or career development problem. PPDP underpins all these and, reflecting on last year’s conference, is best understood as a life-wide and lifelong habit best fostered while at university to develop the reflective graduate capable of taking care of their future. This requires PPDP to be a meaningful concept to the learner. The project has sought to ‘un-problematise’ PPDP so that the learner, and all those who support learning, embrace its importance.

Thomas (2013, p.10) says, “higher education institutions should aim to nurture a culture of belonging within the academic and social community. This should be encouraged through active student engagement, across the institution…” So while PPDP remains pertinent to teaching and learning, it comes from a life-wide view of learning while at university (Jackson, 2013a; 2013b).

The project aimed to concretise this life-wide view of learning, employability and PPDP by focusing first on the ‘presentation layer’; creating and maintaining a professional profile to present ourselves to others. By establishing good presentation practice using LinkedIn (the de facto online social media professional profiling tool) the meaning of, and engagement with, PPDP becomes clearer to the aspiring and practicing professional.

The ‘professional profile’ connects strongly to ideas about professional recognition and reputation for academic staff. A mutual interest for staff and students is now envisaged in which each models good practice and supports the other in using online social media.

Turning First Year History Students into Historians (2014)

Chris Corker & Sarah Holland

The first year module ‘Making History 2: Aspects of Sheffield History’ was redesigned by the presenters two years ago to incorporate an enquiry based, independent research approach, as well as incorporate an introduction to employability, enhance students’ knowledge of Public History and how to ‘do history’, and foster the development of learner autonomy.

Students taking the module work in groups of two to three to work on a piece of research on any aspect of Sheffield history they wish between 1743 and 1918, with emphasis placed on under-researched or new areas of investigation, and use of primary source material. One of the student’s main outputs is an unassessed poster, which is exhibited at a public exhibition.

This paper will highlight our findings from delivering the module for two years based on our own observations and evaluation of the module, and drawing from our surveying of students undertaking the module in the last two cohorts.  Furthermore, we will show that formative assessment is effective in improving engagement when it has an impact on a student’s ability to complete the module assessment. Finally, we will show how allowing students to choose their own topic and area of research is effective in improving their knowledge, engagement and achievement.

This paper builds on work presented at the SHU L&T Conference in 2013 during a thunderstorm session, and is also currently being prepared for publication in SEEJ in 2014.

Collaborative Learning (2014)

Jackie Cawkwell, Mark Boylan & Adam Talbot

The presentation shares how a small project investigated the staff and student experience of a piece of group work (summatively assessed as a group presentation). The core modules (Level 4 Business Analysis and Financial Analysis for Business) were identified as being of interest due to size (600+) and that they attract mixed evaluations, indicating some dissatisfaction.

Data collection was undertaken by a mixed team of academics and a student researcher, with surveys, analysis of module evaluations and a technique known as process value mapping (PVM) as a focus group task. This technique is drawn from the world of business, but applied, we believe, uniquely within HE as an exploration of a learning experience. PVM leads to mapping, categorising and evaluating a process.

Whilst collaborative learning is seen as important for the development of both learning gains and employability skills, it is often reported as causing concern for both staff and students. It was our conjecture that these issues need to be addressed early in the student journey. Consequently, the project rationale was to:

  • describe activities and associated supporting interventions;
  • identify and evaluate strengths and opportunities for further enhancement;
  • evaluate the usefulness of PVM as an enquiry tool;
  • contribute to the knowledge base on collaborative learning in HE and ways to research this.

We will share our initial findings and also explain the techniques adopted for the investigation and reflect on this as one approach to exploring the student experience.

The project was a collaborative process itself, with a student researcher, two principal investigators and a Programme Leader ‘client’. We will reflect upon the implications of this approach in terms of student engagement in the research enquiry and the learning gains of the student researcher.

“Presenting Yourself Positively” – building confidence in verbal and non-verbal communication skills (2014)

Paddy Turner

It is axiomatic that the verbal and non-verbal communication of ideas, concepts and knowledge is a vital component of all our lives whether you are a member of staff or a student. It is fundamental to teaching and the engagement of students, it is an assessed skill in most courses, is highly regarded by employers[1] and yet at the same time identified as a skill-set often missing in graduates[2]. In spite of this, there is very little opportunity to develop these skills either as a student, as a tutor or as a staff member.

This session will discuss the variety of practical teaching components and exercises built up over the last two years of successfully delivering sessions to students and staff across a wide range of courses and environments: from post-grad biomedical science to level 4 graphic design, from maths teachers to physiotherapists. This is not about effective use of PowerPoint but is about practical steps and strategies for feeling and appearing more confident, for engaging your audience and for communicating clearly. It is rooted in the skills learned as a professionally trained and working actor and as a sign language interpreter.

298 – How to engage students in Employability and Personal Development – Billy Jon Bryan

Strands: Course identity and credibility

Anticipated outcomes:

I wish to give members of faculty a sense of ‘atmosphere’ about what our current level 3 students in the sport academy perceive ‘employability’ and also how they view themselves independently in the current job market as they leave this year.

Outline: Poster format

This poster presentation will provide an insight into current and on-going research conducted by myself as a student researcher and academic colleagues/staff in the health and wellbeing department collaboratively with a special focus on using appreciative enquiry pioneered by David Cooperrider (1987). It will assess current attitudes and methods of assessing student engagement in employability and the results of our study will be the basis for re-shaping the course for the next academic year.

As a student myself who has had a lot of experience in many different areas of work I can provide an objective view considering the challenges of working and learning in the current economy and how it affects the learning needs of others in my position concerning employability skills.


Our research will define what current final year students think about the delivery/content/validity of their employability and how it will affect their post graduate employability offering. The discussion method ‘appreciative inquiry’ really ‘brings out the best’ in an individual’s experiences and allows them to be shared in a group setting to inspire and create new ideas from ‘success stories’. These workshops are ‘solution-based’ meaning that discussions will be centred on problems and barriers facing student’s ability to gain job experience/skills using positive aspects of job experience to generate effective solutions for common issues faced by students. We wish to change the identity of the course employability assessment from autocratic, outcome based learning to a more student led approach. The feedback received from students will be used in module development for a new and improved sport business/events management degree producing better equipped students into the job market.

Session activities:

The session will begin with introductions and a short brainstorming session into employability as a whole. Then I will present my poster/research and further develop how what we discussed during the brainstorm relates to my work and students. I will then offer up my own experience in employability and professional development and encourage others to do so while still using evidence from my study and others, turning the session into a focus group type setting using ‘appreciative enquiry. The session will end with Q&A.