Redefining graduate employability and work-integrated learning: Proposals for effective higher education in disrupted economies
Employability features more prominently on the agenda of higher education institutions when the economy falters or changes: the majority of students, and their families, expect a degree to deliver a career pathway as well as an education. This paper explores some of the trends and predictions in the rapidly changing world of work and proposes a re-worked definition of employability (based on Yorke’s widely-accepted definition from 2006): that employability means that students and graduates can discern, acquire, adapt and continually enhance the skills, understandings and personal attributes that make them more likely to find and create meaningful paid and unpaid work that benefits themselves, the workforce, the community and the economy. Likewise, work-integrated learning requires sharper definition than an ‘umbrella term’. This paper proposes that work-integrated learning includes a range of learning tasks that either resemble those expected of working graduates in their early careers, or are proximal to the workplaces or spaces, physical or digital, where professional work occurs. Determining the appropriate spread of tasks across a degree is best done by mapping assessments, ensuring there are more high level tasks in the latter years so that students are prompted to focus on the skills, understandings and personal attributes that make them more likely to find and create meaningful paid and unpaid work that benefits themselves, the workforce, the community and the economy.
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