by MICHAEL HEALY
Universities have long been under pressure to demonstrate their graduates are competitive in crowded and uncertain labour markets. Undoubtedly, the career shock of COVID-19 will only intensify the focus on graduate employability as an outcome of higher education.
Employability has become a fundamental target of teaching and learning and student services strategies, often deployed in institution-wide initiatives and with strong mandates to influence the academic curriculum. University careers services, which for decades have supported students with career planning and job seeking, have been tasked with supporting such strategies, particularly in the form of integrating career development learning in the curriculum and collaborating across the institution in “connected communities” with shared goals for supporting student success. Indeed, there are many examples of innovative collaborations between career development educators and teaching academics.
Nonetheless, despite the clear alignment of research inquiries, employability and career development are two distinct fields of research, with limited theoretical or practical exchange between them. Similarly, the professional practice of supporting students’ employability consists of a distinct and bounded career development profession that sits alongside a range of less-bounded professional jurisdictions such as work-integrated learning, student development, and industry liaison.
As a result, employability strategies and interventions are often drafted without a foundation in quality career development theory and then executed with little contribution from career development educators. For their part, career development educators are sometimes constrained by their own professional boundaries and struggle to translate their expertise to broader institutional strategies. This lack of integration may undermine the quality and cohesion of pedagogical and strategic efforts to support students’ employability and career development.
Rather than continue to approach (and resource) employability and career development as different things, we should recognise their congruence and instead envision more integrative pedagogies of careers and employability learning for higher education to the benefit of all of our students.
Michael Healy is a careers and employability learning educator and researcher at the University of Southern Queensland Michael.Healy@usq.edu.au