Tag Archives: student

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

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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.

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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.

3.7 The PassPort Portal: An online resource to support transition to an International Future

This paper shares the outcomes of a project, developed in collaboration with Robert Gordon University and funded by the HEA, which seeks to develop a range of learning activities informed by data gathered from a bespoke online employer and alumni portal developed by the two universities.

The project demonstrates the benefits of institutional collaboration by bringing together an expanded, diversified, yet complementary, portfolio of courses and participants through which to identify and develop graduate attributes associated with global practice in urban regeneration, architecture, and construction management. The PassPort portal unites senior students, alumni and employers, with mutual benefits arising from this network. It offers a broad scope to investigate global practices and develop intercultural competencies and skills, through harnessing the diverse experiences and backgrounds of students, alumni, and employer contacts.

Ultimately, it is intended that the resultant learning enables students to ‘pass through’ the portal, effecting the transition from student to effective international professional and practitioner.

The project is conceived around three principal dimensions of student engagement, as follows:

• Engagement through an interactive learning process that enhances the

future competitiveness of graduates in an increasingly global industry

• Central involvement of students in the project’s development, and as co-creators

of the process and its outcomes

• Student engagement in activity that enhances the quality and richness of


The increasing importance of companies operating successfully in the international arena means that the realm of contemporary professional practice extends beyond the bounds of any single culture (Ameri, 2008). Consequently, in common with the wide variety of transferrable and non-discipline specific skills taught across the HE sector, global competencies are regarded by industry as a vital facet of 21st century graduate attributes (Yorke, 2006).