Are your students equipped to succeed in an increasingly competitive job market?
Quality education alone might not be enough. The missing piece? Employability skills. Research shows that 80% of employers believe graduates lack these essential skills for career success. Find out which employability skills employers look for, how to support students in developing them, and the benefits for your students, academic staff and institution.
Reading time: 4 minutes
Your institution prides itself, no doubt, on the quality education you provide. But is that enough in today’s education market? You might be missing out on a vital component. One that students, industry and quality assurance bodies prize.
This missing piece?
True, preparing students for the workplace has long been part of higher education provision. But let’s clarify. We’re not talking about simply giving advice on CV writing or how to answer tricky interview questions.
Employability skills are so much more.
In higher education employability skills is understood as ‘a set of achievements – skills, understandings and personal attributes – that makes graduates more likely to gain employments and be successful in their chosen occupations.’
They are those soft, transferable skills, not specific to any job or field, such as communication, EQ, cultural intelligence, creativity and critical thinking. You can find them in most job descriptions. And, as most job descriptions indicate, employability skills are not only desirable - they are essential.
Despite this, recent research indicates that 80% of employers believe that graduates lack essential employability skills. They believe that this skills gap is even larger when it comes to hybrid and remote roles. How well are your students equipped for career success?
Read on to discover which employability skills employers look for, how you can support students to develop them and why they matter.
Which employability skills do employers look for?
In a job market of continued uncertainty and disruption, which employability skills do employers want?
Communication and language
In a world where business is increasingly conducted across borders, across cultures, with dispersed teams and stakeholders, communication and collaboration are vital keys for success. Train your students to communicate clearly and concisely.
Emotional intelligence (EQ)
EQ is a meta-skill. It helps us develop emotional flexibility, enhances a learning mindset and can enhance your students’ collaboration skills.
Cultural intelligence (CQ) and diversity awareness
Employers who operate in a growing interconnected marketplace, need graduates who can navigate multicultural work environments, communicate with diverse customers and colleagues. For the student, it multiplies opportunities for international assignments and showcases cultural awareness and adaptability.
Innovation and creativity
Creative thinking and innovation are the future.
Employers are hungry for those who are forward-thinking, think outside the box and can come up with ideas that will fly. Employers know that adapting is the path to thriving in a world of uncertainty.
Critical thinking and problem solving
Power up your students’ critical thinking skills.
Employers crave candidates who can analyse fast-changing realities and make informed decisions. Job interviews often test for critical thinking skills through situational judgement questions and group assessment tasks.
Resilience and stress management
Employers want new joiners who come ready: ready to adapt to changes in the marketplace, ready to adapt to changes in the workplace, ready to apply what they’ve learnt. Train your students in flexibility, adaptability and resilience so they can face changes ahead.
Lifelong learning and adaptability
Today’s workplaces that thrive prize a learning culture.
Employers need employees who are keen to learn so they grow in their role and contribute to business growth. Build your students’ appetite for learning by incorporating seminars or courses on growth mindset, curiosity and reflective skills into your curriculum.
How can your institution support students to develop employability skills?
Encourage staff to look for opportunities to embed employability skills within the existing curriculum. Skills such as communication, collaboration, problem-solving and critical thinking can naturally be incorporated into course work, practical assignments and interdisciplinary projects.
Real-world learning provides valuable opportunities for students to apply their knowledge as well as build confidence. Think of community service, research and field experience. Each experience will develop core employability skills.
Employability skills training
Use stand-alone workshops, seminars or courses to train students in communication, EQ, CQ and language skills. Build in post-training support and evaluate your content to ensure it is engaging and impactful.
Create collaborations such as guest lectures, industry projects and internships. This helps you align your academic curriculum to industry needs and provides students with industry-specific skills, current trends and practices.
Soft skills assessment and feedback
Nothing helps progress more than knowing your progress. Build in soft skills assessments and feedback mechanisms to communicate learners’ strengths and areas for development. Multi-rater feedback helps build a comprehensive picture: from self-assessment tools, peer feedback as well as from faculty or industry professionals.
Professional development resources and guidance
Offer students resources such as online courses, literature, career readiness modules and resources on professional development. That way, students can enhance their employability skills beyond the classroom at a time and pace that suits them. Make use of free or open educational resources.
What are the benefits of developing employability skills?
When you support the development of students’ employability skills, everyone benefits:
Students equipped with skills for employment are more likely to find jobs on graduation. This boosts their confidence and career prospects. It also boosts morale for current and future students.
Teaching content and methods benefit
We know educators prize their own continuous professional development and derive satisfaction from supporting students. By expanding staff’s knowledge about student employability, introducing new teaching methodologies and forging links with industry, you support staff to feel accomplished and proud about their work.
When your students succeed in the job market, your reputation is enhanced. You become known as a provider of quality education with students’ future career success at its heart.
Enrolment and retention benefits
When your graduates talk positively about your institution’s support for developing their workplace skills, this attracts prospective students. Positive feedback from employers who recruit your graduates, too, makes your institution stand out from other providers.
This is a three-way benefit: the student learns on-the-job through internships or industry projects; your institution gains through knowledge sharing, curriculum adaptation and funding possibilities; industry hires skilled talent to drive growth.
When students join the workplace with employability skills in place, they drive innovation and can deal with challenges. In turn, this makes a positive impact on economic and social development.
Ensure your organisation is not contributing to the employability skills gap. Use these compelling reasons to explain how, by investing in students’ employability skills, you are also investing in your institution’s future.
We have a proven track record of 80 years of success in partnering with education institutions worldwide. Learn more about how we can support you to develop your students and staff for effective programmes that ensure success.