The Background Of What Is Employability Education Essay

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The University of Bolton offers a wide repertoire of creative courses; Arts, Design and Media, Creative Writing, Special Effects, sound and Live Events, all of which the creative industries would be an obvious first choice as a destination for creative students looking to enter the world of work.

In David Cameron's May 2010 speech on the economy, he addresses the economic issues the UK is facing and acknowledges that it is the priority of the government is to transform our economy. He states that the economy has become unbalanced with only a few industries in one corner of the country, rising national debt and too many people on out of work benefits. He highlights the creative industries as an important growth area in rebalancing the economy, getting people working and lighting the fires of entrepreneurialism. (Cameron, 2010)

The UK digital and creative industries contribute to 6% of GDP and employ over 2 million people; it is one of the fastest growing sectors in the UK economy and has been forecast to be playing an even greater role in years to come. (UKTI, 2012) But with this in mind the main candidates for a career in these industries ; graduates of computer sciences and creative arts degrees, have been reported by the higher Education Careers Service Unit to be amongst the least employable graduates. Further to this the data shows that the University of Bolton has the 2nd lowest Employment Performance Indicator in the UK. This seems to be backed up by Lord Puttnam's belief that the UK creative Industries risk's "Falling asleep at the wheel" (Wiseman, 2012)

"Had we in the UK really focused on digital skills and entrepreneurship two decades ago, we might now be in a position to generate the type of growth in jobs and revenue we so desperately need" (Puttnam cited in Wiseman, 2012)

Problem statement

Full time students looking for a career in the Creative and Digital Industries are proving to be some of the most unemployable of graduates, considering the year on year growth of the creative industries and the acknowledgement by the government that the growth in these industries could prove to be an economic lifeline for the UK, it would make sense that plugging this employability gap between graduates and what is needed by the creative industries would help secure the economic future for the UK and its Creative Industries.

Rational for the study

Developing talent and skills for the creative industries is essential for the future of these industries and a life line for the UK economy. (CIC Skillset Skills Group , 2011) The estimate of the current and future economic growth makes it clear that we are a creative nation, a knowledge nation and an innovative nation.

The UK digital and creative industries contribute to 6% of GDP and employ over 2 million people; it is one of the fastest growing sectors in the UK economy and has been forecast to be playing an even greater role in years to come. (UKTI, 2012) Between 1999/2000 and 2007/2008 graduate registrations for creative courses in higher education have grown by 58 per cent for full-time first degree (See table 1.1) (Ball, Pollard, & Stanley, 2010)

Table 1: Registrations in full-time first degrees 1999-2007

Registrations

Creative Arts

All subjects

1999/2000

75,770

906,480

2007/2008

119,590

1,108,685

Difference

+57.8%

+22.3%

Source: Full-time first degrees 1999/2000 and 20007/2008, HESA table 2a

Table 1 Registrations in full-time first degrees 1999-2007

The rise of tuition fees coupled with the fall in employability of students looking for a career within these industries mean there will be increased pressure on universities and the government to increase the employability of their graduates for one of two main reasons; Value for money for the tax payers and the growth of the UK economy.

It has been estimated by the Institute for Fiscal Studies that students attending university under the funding system will be repaying their tuition fees well into their 50's, with an estimated 56% qualifying to be written off after 30 years. It is in the best interest not only of the students but also tax payer that these loans are paid off.

This study would also have benefits for the University of Bolton as HESA annual performance indicator report is considered to be one of the major pieces of statistics used in the universities league tables.

Governments internationally have drawn upon Human Capital theory (Becker, 2009) in formulating higher education policy. In brief, Human capital theory links economic success to the education of the workforce. This is one of the main reasons why employability has become a significant measure within our education system.

Significance of the study

This study would help benefit many stakeholders in the education system. Firstly, the study would help students identify how to increase their own employability; benefiting both the student and the creative industries. Secondly, it could be used to increase value for money as students main reason for embarking on a University course is to see a return for their investment in the form of improved job prospects. This study could be used by educational institutions to make adjustments to current creative courses, making them more relevant to the creative industries and encouraging entrepreneurial spirit that is abundant in many successful freelance graduates and start-up companies.

Furthermore, it would help educational institutions in supporting the development of new modules or modification of existing modules needed to tackle the employability deficit. It would benefit the tax payer ensuring better value for money.

This study outlines the discrepancy between the employability of students and the needs of the creative industries. The study will help students to understand the employment needs of the creative industries; it will help educational institutions increase the employability of students and help students understand how they can increase their own employment prospects.

Aim and Objectives

This paper will help to identify and prioritize specific employability skills and attributes that are required/desired by employers in the creative industries. The finding will be used to create a Creative Industries skills profile that could be used by The University of Bolton, its students and employers to support personal development and help to support its graduate's employability.

This study will help students and tutors understand how they can improve their own employability though personal development.

Objectives of this prototype report

To establish the meaning of employability

To perform a literature review relating to the changing context of employability for creative students in Higher education

To establish how good pedagogy practices encourages employability

Examples of good models of personal development planning

To perform research into the different skills in demand by the creative industries and create an inventory of such skills

Objectives of the final report

Offer a comparison of The students on creative and digital courses against other sectors/institutions

Describe demographics characteristics of students studying in creative courses at the University of Bolton including Age, Sex, Internship, work experience, academic performance, use of employability services, hobbies, interests and involvements in university organisation or extra-curricular activities.

Describe the students' self-perceived competence of employability attributes desired by the creative industries.

Ask a student if they have ever created a personal development plan? And would they find an online collaborative Personal Development Planning tool useful?

Understand where the student gained these competences; whether from academia or life learning.

Understand the relationship between the demographic characteristics, the students' self-perceived competence of the creative industries and if the student is, has ever or is willing to monitor their personal development.

Literature review

Destinations and Reflections was an in-depth study of the careers of arts and design graduates. It was a study of over 2000 graduates from 14 institutions. The research was carried out by Centre for Research into Quality and was a basis for exploring some of the myths about art and design education. The study helped understand the place of art and design education in the modern world of graduate employment. In essence, it found that employers are less interested in the actual subject area studied and more concerned with interactive skills such as communication, teamwork and interpersonal skills alongside personal skills, abilities, intellect, ability to find things out, willingness to learn, flexibility and adaptability and finally, self-belief skills such as self-motivation, self-assurance and self-promotion. To a certain degree, art and design graduates demonstrate or at least quickly develop most of these attributes and should be in a good position to make their own way in the graduate market. However, it is argued whether graduates themselves are aware of this and fundamentally, if those that are teaching in the sector are aware of the students employment prospect. The study established that although there is an oversupply of creative students with regards to graduate opportunities that the issue of oversupply would appear to be irrelevant for two reasons; the oversupply of graduates is an issue for all sectors and secondly there is an issue of what actually constitutes a 'graduate' level job as changes in organisation of businesses have effectively put an end to the 'graduate job'. With this in mind, it is important for graduates of these subjects to be flexible and adaptable and have confidence and self-belief to take the initiative in the workplace.

Changes in the workplace

The way people work has changed considerably over the last decade, even more so in the creative industries; technology has brought new possibilities in a knowledge-based economy. The nine to five, Monday to Friday working patterns are increasingly becoming a thing of the past as the economy has moved away from manufacturing and into a knowledge based, digital and service based economy. This has also affected the notion of a 'graduate level' job and the linear 'job for life'. These expectations are no longer realistic for the modern graduate in any creative subject area as graduates engage in a wide variety of work, from working in smaller enterprises or on freelance bases, to the rise of the so called 'portfolio career' in which one works more than one, sometimes multiple part time jobs. (Adler, 2006)

To be able to manage these changes in the work place graduates need a set of desirable skills:

Interactive attributes: communication, interpersonal and teamwork

Personal attributes: intellect and problem-solving; analytic, critical and reflective ability; willingness to learn and continue learning; flexibility, adaptability and risk-taking. These are the attributes that help organisations to deal with change. An understanding of the world of work, some commercial awareness, and an appreciation of work culture." (Harvey et al. 2002)

Portfolio Career

Most people working creatively are working some kind of Portfolio Career for a number of reasons, one might be doing it for economic value; adverts for TV or working for a particular company's product launch can pay quite well but can be extremely limiting (i.e. they don't last long). Secondly there is job satisfaction, some people may choose to do a particular job because of aesthetic value; maybe just to keep them busy until a more profitable opportunity becomes available. Thirdly, people might choose to do a job because it could help develop their own career, they might want to start their own company, in which case they could possibly have to do a number of things in terms of sustaining themselves, (Bryant, 2012) for example Jo Hilditch, the course leader of the Creative Industries and Music BSc at Bolton University still refers to herself as a PR and marketing guru in terms of her main vocational calling.

What is employability?

It is difficult to find a universally accepted definition of what employability is, or what even employability skills are as the different sectors have different aims with regards to employability.

Hillage & Pollard, (1998) of the Institute for Employment Studies developed a framework for analysis on employability, their main findings were that employability is about having the capability to gain initial employment, maintain employment and if required find new employment. For the individual, employability depends upon their assets in terms of knowledge, skills and attitudes, the way these assets are presented, used and deployed and the context within which the individual works, e.g. personal circumstances and labour markets.

The government policy is aimed at:

Emphasis on the development of knowledge and accreditation of vocational skills rather than 'softer' skills and attitudes

At people looking to enter the labour market, the unemployed and students rather than those already in the labour market

The demonstration of assets rather than their deployment

The supply and individual side rather than the employers and demand side. (Hillage & Pollard, 1998)

The problem with the government policy is this doesn't really cater for people looking for a career in the creative industries, whom which are often participating in portfolio or freelance style of work. Having excellent knowledge of employer relevant skills and attitudes is not enough for this group to release their potential by moving freely about in the labour markets. This group of creators needs to be able to exploit their assets by marketing them and selling them.

Although employability is a much used concept in terms of finding employment, there has been no constancy in its definition or how it is measured, employability is not just about an acquisition of a certain repertoire of skills. (Morley, 2001)

Yorke (2001) argues for a concept of employability that promotes a synergic combination of personal qualities, skills of various kinds and subject understanding, with particular emphasis is placed on personal qualities as these are harder to teach in an educational environment but could have a considerable effect on obtaining employment.

Therefore there are two main concepts of employability, the educational concept relating to the ability of graduates to achieve graduate level roles, meaning employability is more related to graduates being equipped and capable of a job rather than obtaining employment. The second of which is a concept which very much fits the government's agenda, "Get a Job - any job" (Harvey, 2001; van der Heijden, 2001). The governments take on employability doesn't take into consideration the graduates desire to become successful in their chosen occupation, as a consequence the Skills Plus project began in 2000 and ran for two years involving many different departments over four universities.

Capability was a major influence in the Skills Plus Project's approach to employability and this was taken further by creating the Enhancing Students Employability Co-ordination Team (ESECT), ESECT described employability as:

"a set of achievements - skills, understandings and personal attributes - that make graduates more likely to gain employment and be successful in their chosen occupations, which benefits themselves, the workforce, the community and the economy." (Yorke & Knight, 2006)

This employability statement meets the expectation of the policy-makers; essentially it went beyond the narrower concepts (get a job-any job) of employability to help see students succeed in wider, societal, outlook.

USEM Model of employability

The approach adopted by ESECT was more accepted by academics that the earlier government rhetoric about decreasing a "skills gap' and was accompanied by a loose framework, using the acronym USEM; four related components:

Understanding;

Skilful practices in context (academic, employment and life in general)

Self-Efficacy and personal qualities;

Metacognition.

The attraction that USEM has over previous prescribed polices is that it uses a framework that asks 'how can your studies respond to the implications of USEM's four areas?' rather than a checklist of skills to be covered within the curriculum.

Figure : A schematic USEM model of employability, Knight and Yorke (2002)

The above diagram outlines the USEM model; it is "an attempt to put thinking about Employability on a more scientific basis, partly because of the need to appeal to academic staff on their own terms by referring to research evidence and theory" (Knight and Yorke, 2004)

Understanding Subject knowledge and Skilful Practice

In this model of understanding the subject knowledge along with skilful practice in an academic context is traditionally seen as one of the key outcomes of higher education and is widely understood with in the education system, thus there is no need for further elaboration. The other aspects of the model need to be explained as they are more accounted to employability.

Skilful practice in context relates to 3 sets of employability assets:

Academic skills: Specialist knowledge, logical thinking, ability to apply knowledge, critical analysis, written and spoken communication, problem-solving, ability to use numerical data, computer literacy and research skills.

Personal Development Skills: Includes self-confidence, self-reliance, self-discipline, awareness of weaknesses and strengths, independence, creativity, desire to learn, reliability, integrity, ability to reflect, honesty and regard for others.

Business, entrepreneurial and enterprise skills: include ability to prioritise tasks, time management, presentational skills, interpersonal skills, ability to work in teams and leadership skills, commercial awareness, innovation, flexibility, independence and risk-taking.

Following the Dearing report (1997) formally known as the National Committee of Inquiry into Higher Education, HE institutes are placing emphasis on Key Skills by incorporating opportunities to develop such skills alongside developing Knowledge and subject-specific skills. It is believed that this should enhance graduates success whilst in the recruitment process by producing graduates that are job ready, able to make an immediate contribution, dynamic and possess the ability of being able to adapt to rapid change. To achieve this academic programs have adopted multiple strategies, for example, work based learning and employability skills modules, work experience, 'ready for work' events, as well as involving employers in supporting the university in creating new courses, modules and helping design new methods of delivery. In most cases, employability has already been embedded into the curriculum; universities are employing initiatives to make their employability agenda clearer to students. (Cranmer, 2006)

Self-efficacy

Self-Efficacy is usually defined as a belief in one's capability to achieve a goal or specific outcome. Students with a strong sense of self efficacy have more self-motivation and are likely to challenge themselves with hard to do tasks. These students are more likely to accept blame rather than point at external factors for failure and thus tend to put a high amount of effort in. With this mentality these students are more prone to recovering soon after setbacks and are more likely to achieve their goals. On the other hand, students with low self-efficiency belief are more likely to have low aspirations which can result in poor performance and are less likely to make a strong effort thus tend to avoid challenges that they consider as threats. Students with low self-efficiency belief may enter a kind of feedback cycle of repeated disappointing academic performances. (Margolis & McCabe, 2006)

First things first, teachers need high self-efficacy belief, a teacher with a high degree of self-efficacy belief find it easier to motivate their students and enhance creative and cognitive development. These teachers are more willing to experiment with new techniques and ideas and may have an easier time bouncing back from setbacks. Teachers with low efficacy belief may rely more on a rigid teaching style and could be more critical of failing students, laying blame for failure on the student rather than themselves. (Bandura, 1994 & Margolis, 2005)

"Schools in which staff members collectively judge themselves capable of promoting academic success imbue their schools with a positive atmosphere for development that promotes academic attainments regardless of whether they serve predominantly advantaged or disadvantaged students" (Bandura, 1994)

Teachers can help to build self-efficacy by incorporating effective strategies; there are four main areas' that can contribute to self-efficacy belief:

Master Experiences - Success can help boost a student's self-efficacy belief whereas failure can erode it. This is the biggest influence in self-efficacy.

Verbal persuasion - Tutors can help encourage students to do their best with communication and credible feedback to help guide the student though the task. Key Skills

Vicarious experience - Watching others succeed at challenges can strengthen one's own beliefs in the ability "Anything you can do, I can do better" (Berlin, 1946)

Emotional State - A certain level of emotion and a positive attitude can contribute to an energized enthusiasm that contributes to high performance; emotions like anxiety can undermine ones beliefs.

The learning environment and teaching method can improve self-efficacy. Fencl and Scheel (2005) describe the effects of different teaching methods in which self-efficacy were measured. The response indicated that inquiry-based activities question and answer format, rather than quantitative problems had a greater effect in achieving a positive climate in the learning environment. Additionally, collaborative learning and the use of ICT showed a positive correlation with an increase in self-efficacy in the students sampled. Teaching methods that produced a positive effect share a common feature of engaging students in a creative and comfortable manor. Furthermore, pedagogies such as inquiry-based activities and collaborative learning have shown to have a high correlation with how well students learn. (Fencl & Scheel, 2005)

Cooperative learning can have a dual effect by improving academic achievements and fostering self -efficacy.

"Cooperative learning structures, in which students work together and help one another also tend to promote more positive self-evaluations of capability and higher academic attainments than do individualistic or competitive ones." (Bandura, 1994)

Other pedagogies for improving self-efficacy:

Delegating specific, attainable and challenging short term goals.

Working with students to bespoke a learning plan and getting them to verbalise it. As students proceed, ask them to take note of their progress and verbalise their next steps.

Compare student performance to their own goals and benchmarks rather than using class averages or comparing to another student.

Certain well-used pedagogical practices may have undesirable effects on students who may be not be at the top of the class and could actually diminish the self-efficacy belief of these students:

Statements or practices that compare students' performance with each other. Although this often raises the self-efficiency belief in top performers it can be devastating for students who do feel they could perform as well.

Have a one size to fit all approach that is inflexible and doesn't allow for student input can make it harder for students to ask questions alienating them from the learning process. This could cause confusion or discouragement.

Students that enter the feedback cycle of repeated failure or struggle can be the most challenging to increase self-belief, Margolis (2005) makes use of various techniques that are easily adopted to support struggling students:

Use challenging but achievable tasks -if the task is too easy the student may find it embarrassing or boring and be left with a feeling that the tutor has no belief in their ability. A task that is too difficult could contribute to the feedback cycle. A good target is usually just above the students' current level of ability.

Tie the course into material that captures their imagination, for example the use of technology, pop culture or using guest lecturers to talk about fascinating experiences.

Students can learn by watching their peers succeed. Getting students to work together to share learning models can boost confidence in all.

Accommodating struggling students by allowing them to make their own choices and decisions such as assignment options, self-determined deadlines and flexible grades.

Encourage accurate attributions, helping students understand why they didn't succeed at a task if they failed; for example students do not fail tasks because they are stupid, they fail because they didn't spend enough time on the task or didn't follow the learning strategy they helped set out or simply because they didn't follow instructions.

Credible praise and encouragement is very important, hyperbole especially in HE can be interpreted as patronising and can be embarrassing. When giving feedback it is important to use the students own benchmarks as a comparison rather than other students.

Encourage students to try - giving consistent specific and credible encouragement. Such as "you can do this, we worked out a template for your assignment and what part to tackle and research week by week - now follow your plan and you will be successful"

Students' self-perceptions of efficacy are different from other related motivational constructs as they are in close correlation to successfully performing a task. These cognitive beliefs are different from traits of self-belief due to their sensitivity to variations in the task at hand, the situation of an individual and their experience.

Metacognition

The word "metacognition" was invented by J.H.Flavell (1979) an American psychologist who emphasized its role in reading comprehension, communication, language acquisition, social cognition self-control, attention, memory writing self-instruction and problem solving. Anderson and Krathwohl (2001) suggested that metacognition is harder to teach and assess than more conceptual, factual and procedural categories of knowledge.

Put simply Metacognition is "thinking about thinking", it is an abstract approach to analysing one's own thoughts (analysing thinking: meta+cognition) , keeping an active awareness and applying knowledge to their own thinking processes. In other words, "what one believes and how one knows". For example, if one was to adopt a reflective approach to the working experience that would be a cognitive strategy, whereas analysing ones process of reflection would be a metacognitive strategy.

Metacognition helps to move students towards independence, self-efficacy and interdependence; students learn to master knowledge and solve problems with more ease. (Block, et al. 2005) Students that struggle with learning disabilities such as dyslexia can gain a huge benefit from being taught metacognition strategies as it helps them to become more aware of their thought process, to understand what strategies work best for themselves and also when meaning breaks down. They learn what to do when they don't know what to do (Wade, 1990)

"Metacognition can increase engagement. Metacognition has the potential to empower students take to charge of their own learning and to increase the meaningfulness of students' learning." (Gama, 2007)

A developmental approach needs to be taken when teaching metacognitive strategies, students must first learn to evaluate by stating their reasons for disliking or liking a given subject, secondly this is taken forward by learning how to apply this evaluation to other situations and finally, students can go beyond this by explaining their evaluation to convince others of their reason, being able to adapt information to different contacts. (Israel, 2007)

Authors such as Cohen (1998), Graham and Harris (1993) and Israel (2007) state that metacognition combines multiple reflective processes. The five components of teaching metacognition:

Preparing and planning for learning

Selecting and using teaching strategies

Monitoring strategy use

Orchestrating various strategies

Evaluating strategy use and learning

Personal Development Planning

According to the Higher Education Academy (2009) Personal Development Planning (DPD) is defined as ''a structured and supported process undertaken by an individual to reflect upon their own learning, performance and/or achievement and to plan for their personal, educational and career development'. With regards to the reference above stating "structured and supported' this suggests that there is an obligation from the higher education institutes to provide the structure and support the student needs, but, with this in mind, the most important starting point for PDP is getting the individual to take ownership of their own personal development.

The Dearing Report (1997) made recommendations for higher educations to introduce a Higher Education Progress File which should include two elements; a transcript provided by the institution that records an individual's learning and achievements and also a means, in which students can build, monitor and reflect upon their personal development. These recommendations where supported by Universities UK, Universities Scotland, Guild HE, and QAA in which they released a joint policy statement supporting the recommendations for implementing achievement transcripts by 2002/03 and Personal Development Planning by 2005/06. (Ward & Watts, 2009) The Burgess Report (Universities UK, 2007) highlighted that the academic transcripts have been rolled out by all HE institutes but the Progress File and PDP had not been widely adopted. Most of the universities including The University of Bolton only use these transcripts for academic achievements.

Leeds University pioneered an early model, known as the 'Taj Mahal model' (Figure: 3) it considers the inter-relationship between PDP and the transcripts. Within this model students could use personal evidence to support their PDP and it to be submitted for inclusion into the transcripts, therefore the transcripts were not only for academic achievements. Leeds University developed this further so that evidence collected from other development activates "would have the same status as other evidence of attainments" (Jones, P.R, cited in CDELL, 2002)

Figure : The Taj Mahal model

The Taj Mahal model illustrated who owned each section of the personal development process. Students can privately claim an attainment in the right hand column. They have the option of supporting this claim with evidence in the middle column, although this is a shared process between the HE institute and the student, in practice this is 'owned' by the student, but is supported and the structure is provided by the university in maintaining that the level of development is in line with institutional good practice. The assessed elements will be included in the far left transcript column, a public document owned by the university. Using this model, PDP can be achieved as an institutionally supported bridge between public outcomes and private processes. This would have a massive effect on the self-efficacy of students, as a student who produces an assignment might actually be more proud of the work undertaken and the skills and knowledge learnt that the actual level of attainment. For example, Trevor Macdonald a student at the University of Bolton achieved high mark of 88 in the Online Media Creation and Marketing module. Although he was very pleased with his mark he was more proud of the fact he learnt how to use Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Flash to create a Brand Guideline document and a Website for a band, things of which he has always wanted to do but never invested any time into learning as he always thought learning a new package like adobe takes years of learning and practice. Creating two pieces of work that, in his lecturer's point of view was to a very high professional standard, gave him the belief that he could learn anything, relatively quickly and to a high professional standard. (Macdonald, 2012) This is one of his proudest achievements at university, but the transcripts provided by The University of Bolton do not illustrate the struggle he went through nor explain some of the skills he has developed.

Using this model, a personal development plan would also contribute to supporting students' career aspirations, as the process is owned by the individual with mediating processes that provides support to the individuals in the form of leaning/tutoring, curriculum provisions and career guidance. This can easily be achieved if an HE institute moves towards assessments of portfolio materials, the use of electronic personal development plans and the embedding of practice within the curriculum. (Ward & Watts, 2009)

Technology is increasingly being used to support personal development processes. Many institutions now use e-portfolios or other electronic support tools. (Strivens, 2007) Although these institutions can claim they provide provisions to all students, these provisions are unsupported and minimal. On the other hand, use of which can enhance the quality of more substantial provisions.

Atlay (cited in The Higher Education Academy, 2006) set out five models of curriculim delivery, the Higher Education academy gave each of these categories a label:

Extended: PDP processes are integrated into the curriculum, they serve to integrate learning activites from outside the curriculum by offereing work based learning and other extra-curricula activites.

Integrated: where every tutor has a responsability for supporting PDP, whereas most modules involve activities that are aligned with PDP

Embedded: PDP is embedded in certain modules.

Linked: PDP is ran in parallel to the curriculum. These may include diaries, personal logs or even compulsory sessions as part of a skills week or personal tutoring.

Discrete: PDP is separate form the curriculum but students are encouraged to engage in PDP with some suport form tutors but the discretion is very much left to the student.

Personal Development Planning is an important and highly effective strategy at increasing the employability of students. The employability agenda in HE litterally extends the learning framwork of personal development practice into the world of work, covering the graduates career. This would contribute and strengthen the personal development of students beyond university and help suport lifelong career development and lifelong learning.

Student Employability Profiles

The Higher Education Academy alongside the Council for Industry and Higher Education (CIDE) (Rees, et al. 2006) has produced an employability guide to promote and support the use of the Student Employability Profiles. Their goal was to produce a guide that would be beneficial to a wide range of staff within HE. Their main concerns were supporting those closely occupied with:

designing and delivering the curriculum

supporting students' personal development planning activities

providing career guidance and support to students and graduates

communicating what disciplines can offer to prospective students

undertaking employer liaison

The guide provides an overview of 53 discipline profiles hat have been produced in consultation with 24 Higher Education Academy Subject Centres. Each profile identifies skills that can be developed through the study of a subject and are based on subject benchmarks. These skills have been mapped in collaboration with CIHE regarding the competencies, employability skills and attributes that they valued when recruiting. There is no definitive list of competencies but the following bullet points represent the key competencies that employers believed added value and help transform organisation early on in a graduate's career:

Personal Capabilities: the desire and ability to learn for themselves, improve self-awareness and performance, they practice lifelong learning, to be a self-starter, being able to finish a job. (Adaptability, flexibility, decisiveness, achievement orientated, creativity, initiative, tolerance of stress and good leadership qualities)

Business and organisation awareness: Having an understanding of how a business operates though having relevant work experience/ an understanding of organisational culture, processes and policies though organisational sensitivity and understanding. The ability to understand basic commercial and financial principles ( financial awareness, commercial awareness, organisation understanding)

Brainpower/Cognitive skills: the ability to identify, analyse and solve problems, handle a mass of diverse data and have confidence to work with information. Ability to assess risk and to draw conclusions (attention to detail, analysis, judgement)

Technical Ability: having the experience and knowledge of working with modern, up to date equipment and software. The ability to exploit and apply information technology. (Technical knowledge, technical application)

Vocational Courses - Practical Elements: Participate in and review risk management and quality control processes; Critical evaluation of Professional practices; reflect and review own practices.

Generic Competencies: Communication, persuasion and interpersonal sensitivity, high-level of transferable key skills, such as the ability to work in a team. (Image, influencing, planning and organising, teamwork, written communication, interpersonal sensitivity)

The guide is split up into 3 parts: generic material, which is a set of supporting material to be made available to search Subject Centre and two other separate documents form the basis of Student Employability Profile for most subject disciplines. These are the Skills and Attributes Map and the Discipline Profile.

Skills and Attributes map (appendix 1)

The Skills and Attributes map looks to capture important behavioural capabilities or the criteria within the subject benchmark statements set out by the members of the Council for Industry and Higher Education Employers' Forum.

The Discipline Profile of the arts and design graduates. (Appendix A)

The profile identifies a set of wok related skills that can be developed from studying arts and design subjects; it gives a description of Arts and Design as an academic discipline and a commentary on the value of the skills in employment. Although there was more relevant and up to date information on the Arts, Design and Media subject centre website, it was closed on the 31st March 2012 due to funding cuts. When using the profiles it is important to be prescriptive and acknowledge that some disciplines would adapt the profiles in a number of ways.

The University of Bolton

"The University of Bolton will help you to acquire the skills, knowledge and abilities to gain employment. We want to help you to take control of your personal and professional development to meet your career aspirations and realise your potential." (The University of Bolton, No Year)

A simple Google search for "employability The University of Bolton" brings you to numerous pages on the subject of employability. The page titled "Employability Statement" is headed with the above statement and goes on to explain the different resources that are available to its students. It explains that employability is embedded across all levels of study, ensuring that students acquire key graduate skills that are expected by employers. It tells us that all faculties have champions for both careers and enterprise. It boasts impressive links with employers, professional bodies and practice specialists to ensure that the employability skills are relevant, up to date and meet the needs of the current graduate job market. There are links on the page for particular opportunities; 'Placement and internship opportunities', ' career mentoring,' 'career management modules,' and a 'job shop.' There is a statement that says the University of Bolton requires all students to create a PDP directing students to a link, and finally there are links for part time work and peer mentoring. None of these links actually work and bring you to "page not found." There is however links that do work for careers support for prospective students, current students and graduates.

Job Shop

The job shop is an online tool that requires registration, as of the date accessed the tool has a total of 110 national and international graduate vacancies, 12 of which are in the greater Manchester and 52. It does appear that there are some very good graduate opportunities but taking into account that the reach of this job search stretched internationally, there were not many opportunities considering the thousands of graduates that are most probably going to compete for these few graduate opportunities. It is worth noting that a considerable amount of these "graduate places" are not in fact graduate level roles but rather mundane jobs such as customer service advisers and low paid, barely above minimum wage jobs. There are only 2 opportunities that are classed as "work experience" available in greater Manchester.

Bolton.ac.uk/Careers - Careers services

This is a part of the university's site which is geared towards gaining employment for students and graduates. It is a kind of one stop shop that students can use to learn about the many different aspects of employment and receive advice and direction increasing one's employability.

Careers Office Resources: A team based in the careers office, located close to the student union, can support access to office held information and support. The following information and resources and information are available at the careers office:

Employer directories: the Careers service receives annual copies of Prospects Directories and Hobson's Graduate Careers Directories listing a large range of graduate employers.

Journals/newspapers/ specialist Guides.

Student Guides: guides on job search and techniques and careers planning.

Videos and DVD's: there are a range of careers-related videos and DVDs available to watch in the careers office.

Three computers available to check for vacancies get supported C.V and cover letter guidance and complete application forms.

Some of the links do not work and the ones that do take you to an e-learning, Moodle site. The careers service generally offers the same kind of generic services offered at all universities. The problem with careers services such as these, they only offer generic and general advice for the majority and very rarely are these kind of services are able to cater for the student with more focused career plans and when one on one advice is given, it is often by someone that is classed as a careers adviser and never anyone considered an expert or even someone with extensive knowledge in that field. Due to the complex nature of careers in the creative industries, it would be best for students to gain advice from people who have experienced creative careers success themselves. As the usual graduate route; applying for a graduate role or full time position often doesn't apply to these graduates.

Careers Moodle

The careers Moodle is an online resource accessed through Moodle, an E-learning environment. It is split up into ten sections:

All about careers - information on the careers service

Your Faculty Area - Arts and Media Technologies link "currently unavailable to students'

PDP (personal development - multiple resources linked to PDP, student are able to assess their skills stating whether they "have" or "don't have" numerous key skills from communication through to team work. Job analysis sheet, swot analysis and a STARE reflective process.

Career Panning - a career planning guide and a link to Prospects career planner, an online career service.

Work Experience - links to external job search sites tailored for graduates, a guide to graduate schemes and a guide to work experience options.

CVs & applications - advice in creating and updating CVs and applications

Interviews - interview guide, advice on how to dress, interview tips and a guide and advice to Psychometric Success and assessment centres.

Employability - another analysing employability document and advice, careers fairs a document titled employability are you prepared with suggestions on what kind of questions and activities you should be doing depending which year of a degree a student is in.

Networking - advice on what networking is, the networking Etiquette guide and a link to social networking site Linked In

Videos - videos on careers advice.

The Careers Moodle is a good resource that students can use to understand their own prospects and how to improve them, albeit rather it more tailored for a student looking towards the more conventional method of applying for jobs and doesn't offer any advice on people looking for starting their own business or even where to find this information. The students looking for careers in the creative industries might find some of the advice very generic and not applicable for their chosen pathways.

Self-Employment

There is a great deal of links to information and advice collated on a single webpage for people wanting to start their own business, they all consist of external agencies offering free advice and services for people looking to become self-employed. There is plenty of locally run initiatives and information regarding special loans or even grants if the applicant qualifies and information on HMRC and links to online networks.

The university of seems to have a wide range of information available for students looking for a more traditional approach to finding employment and an extensive list of links to organisations and services for students looking to become self-employed. There are plenty of extracurricular opportunities for students such as a business start-up boot camp where students and graduates can learn about tax, finance, networking, presentations and various other skills and knowledge related to understanding business start-up. Primary research needs to be completed to understand the level in which employability is embedded into creative courses and to establish if the students are aware of how to access employability information.

Employability Performance Indicators (EPI) and league tables

The University of Bolton is at the bottom of HESA's EMI and the League Tables of UK HE institutes.

Performance indicators are provided by the Higher Education Statistics Agency, they cover publicly funded higher education institutions in the UK. Performance indicators is comparative data on the performance of institutes in widening participation, student retention, learning and teaching outcomes, research output and employment of graduates. (HESA, 2012)

Employment indicators are based on the Destinations of Leaver in Higher Education survey, it details the percentage and number of graduates who say they are working or studying 6 months after graduation. The data provides a breakdown by higher education institution, subject area and includes the response rates of the DLHE survey.

Courses across the UK, in which the main tenants are traditionally graduates looking for a career in the creative industries, are notoriously known for their low EPI index, it could leave one to believe that these graduates are less employable than graduates of other courses. This could be down to the fact that graduates looking to become self-employed or working towards a portfolio career would take a significant amount of time longer to reach a level of sustainability; building up contacts, networking, creating a portfolio can take many years before a creative graduate has the capacity to achieve full time sustainability. Therefore the EMP index for would be unfit to measure the success of graduates' employability. Gradates with higher self-belief in success of achieving sustainability could possibly put themselves though more toil and hardship before reaching their goals.

Conclusions

Creative arts and design graduates are currently facing high levels of unemployment; this is down to a number of factors, the widening participation and improving of retention initiatives has meant that there has been a sharp increase in graduates that hasn't been met with an increase in graduate opportunities within the economy. Grade inflation has increase the competition in the higher performing graduates, potentially making it harder and thus more expensive for recruitment.

The traditional path for employment is no longer valid for a graduate in the creative industries. To help the increase in graduate opportunities in the economy we need a growth in business, this could be met by encouraging start up and supporting start-up businesses to grow and developed.

The established path to increasing employability is through structured and supportive personal and professional development planning, this needs to be as accessible and as user friendly as possible for students that have become accustomed to the many efficiencies technology has brought to the world. The electronic Personal Development Tool and the Taj Mahal model pioneered by Leeds University also acknowledges non-academic achievements as important to their personal development as the academic achievement; undoubtedly making a considerable difference in their perceptions of their employability.

The next stage of primary research will be to perform unstructured interviews with various stakeholders of The University of Bolton, this will provide me an opportunity to discuss my literature review and gain hopefully gain more insight into employability at the university. I will then construct my quantitative research to gain students employability perception.

Possible Questions for research

This is a working list of questions that will be used in the primary research. There will be a list of attributes and skills that are considered desirable by the creative industries, students will score their personal perceptions of each attribute so this can be compared to with the demographic data to understand trends.

Here is a list of different instructional techniques, please rate how effective each technique is for your learning. Using an 11-point system, where 0 means the technique is not at all effective and 10 means the technique is very effective. If you have not been exposed to this technique please respond "N/A"

On-the-job Training

Hands-on training

Multimedia

Seminars

Traditional lecture

Online/distance learning

On average how much time do you spend in your academic program in practical, hands on learning versus theoretical learning? For example for every 10 hours you spend learning how many of these is practical work?

Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Overall I feel I am or will be upon graduation adequately prepared for entry-level position in my chosen field of study.

Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Overall Employees we hired in the past year have been adequately prepared by their education or training.

Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Overall Graduates from my institution are adequately prepared for entry-level positions in their chosen field of study.

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