Rethinking Employability Beyond 2020: Ten Recommendations for Universities

As the shift towards shorter, skills based and employment-focused micro-credentials builds momentum, education providers must strategically evolve their credentials and curriculum to meet demand.

This Whitepaper, by Emeritus Professor Beverley Oliver, explores the drivers behind the the new meaning of employability and makes ten recommendations to help universities rethink how they can increase employability beyond 2020.

Executive Summary

Many wonderful things can happen when you enrol in higher education: you can learn new things, see the world through different eyes, meet new people, think new thoughts and see new opportunities. All of these benefits are to be prized, especially when you enrol in a long term experience associated with attaining a degree, and particularly your first degree.

However, not everyone wants a first degree (and governments are starting to agree), and certainly not a second one. Interest is shifting towards shorter, skills based and employment-focused micro-credentials. Businesses know this: some are bypassing degrees and developing their own micro-credentials to create a talent pool with the precise skills needed to fill designated roles. Google Career Certificates, for example, are short, cost-effective and designed to lead to a specific job, working on the assumption that most adult learners are primarily motivated to acquire a credential, micro or macro, in order to secure meaningful paid employment, or more broadly, career advantage. But if credentials of all sizes are a bridge between education and work, then providers need to consider:

  • If work has changed (it may be more dangerous or shifted from onsite and fixed hours to digital access across time zones, and possibly from home)
  • Then so has employability, and so must credentials and curriculum

Employability, however defined, must be related to empirically observable employment outcomes. Future research is needed to determine:

  • The factors that affect a graduate’s likelihood of success in finding, creating and retaining work over a lifetime;
  • Whether those factors can be influenced and if so, how; and
  • Which factors can be influenced during a learner’s enrolment, regardless or age or stage?

Universities have limited influence over external factors such as education policy, labour markets and graduates’ personal circumstances and ambitions. However, they have the power to:

  1. Define and measure employability;
  2. Enhance the employability signals of their credentials, micro and macro; and
  3. Review all their curricula through a tighter employability lens

This paper makes ten recommendations that may assist universities to rethink employability strategies beyond 2020:

Ten Recommendations for Universities - Rethinking Employability Beyond 2020 - Edalex Whitepaper

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