Joining up the dots: Telling the story of skills. How can students in Higher Education be supported to better understand and articulate their employability?

Gail de Blaquière, Jane Elizabeth Nolan, Katie Wray


Employability is a complex, contested concept which has tended to be considered in terms of a dominant discourse of skills. This article argues that employability needs to be thought of more holistically, as ongoing, life-long, situated learning, whilst acknowledging that the contested language of skills and the need to demonstrate competency through examples is embedded in employers’ recruitment processes. Therefore the ability to articulate what a graduate can offer to employers, framed in terms of skills and expressed in narratives which provide convincing examples, is important in establishing potential employability. Research shows that undergraduate and postgraduate students can find this problematic. In addition, recent scholarship calls for research to create a theoretically informed understanding of why and how interventions aimed at enhancing employability are effective. The authors have researched a diverse range of interventions which have had a positive impact and which are based on the principles of enterprise education and experiential learning. Their findings, based on qualitative and quantitative data collected from participants, suggest that experiential learning can be helpful in enabling students to more confidently articulate their employability by providing examples of skilful practices applied in context. It is unusual for undergraduate (UG) and post graduate (PG) student learning experiences to be considered within the same research project however, the correlation of results and outcomes provides valuable points of reflection. The interventions explored provide examples of ways in which a practice architecture based on experiential learning can support understanding, confidence, metacognition and the creation of narratives, enhancing students' capacity to ‘join up the dots’, and tell the story of their employability.


transferable skills; experiential learning; practice architecture; enterprise education; metacognition; narratives of employability

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