by MICHAEL HEALY, JASON BROWN and CANDY HO
As an outcome of higher education, employability serves as a bill of goods for public and private investment. As a process, it is a billboard promise from universities to students. Increasingly, it has become a core responsibility of university academic and professional staff alike. A strategic goal as important as employability should be supported by comprehensive cross-institutional strategies and cultures based on integrative, evidence-based pedagogical principles. And it should be supported with appropriate models of professional practice.
However, our recent analysis of Australian job ads for employability support roles illustrated that higher education’s ‘team employability’ is not a cohesive professional community, but rather an ecology of several areas of expertise, including career development, work-integrated learning, and industry liaison, among others. Despite sharing a common concern, each area understands and approaches employability differently. Among the specialties, only career development comes with specific qualifications and professional standards.
We also found that, of the 376 job ads, only 40 per cent were permanent full-time. We observed several bubbles of multiple, fixed-term roles at particular universities, often with catchy project names included in the job title or description. For this reason, we questioned whether universities resource employability support for their students as enthusiastically as they sell it. We fear that the quality, impact, and sustainability of these employability strategies are constrained when those hired to design, implement, and evaluate them have only 12 or 24 months of job security to do so.
Careers and employability learning is a multifaceted and dynamic process which requires multifaceted and dynamic pedagogical strategies to support it. There is no quick fix, one-size-fits-all model for employability, and no single division of a university can own it. The entire university is a careers and employability learning environment and needs to be better understood, organised, and resourced as such.
Dr. Candy Ho is Assistant Professor, Integrative Career and Capstone Learning, in the College of Arts, University of the Fraser Valley. Candy.Ho@ufv.ca @CanceHo