Dr Stuart Durkin, School of Social Science, tells us how students often find it a real challenge to understand the transferability of their academic experiences and how to present these experiences to employers. In order to address this issue, the course Working Together: Employability for Arts & Social Sciences (ED3536) was created to enhance students' employability.

Context

Students often find it a real challenge to understand the transferability of their academic experiences and how to present these experiences to employers. In particular, students overlook skills such a project management, creative thinking and collaborative working, and the way in which these skills can be applied in a variety of non-academic contexts. In order to address this issue, the course Working Together: Employability for Arts & Social Sciences (ED3536) was created to enhance students' employability. By completing this course, the students engage in an authentic learning experience, undertake critical reflection and develop their employability capabilities.

Activity

This third year course provides students with the opportunity to complete a group, work-based project provided by a local business or charity, and to reflect on their project experiences via a summative reflective report/group oral presentation.
 
The underlying rationale for these forms of assessment are to support learners to:
 
Critically analyse their work-based project learning experiences. Explore their skills and Aberdeen Graduate Attribute development. Capture their next career planning steps and future learning goals.
 
Assessments are designed to help students to become more proactive, independent and critical learners. Feedback from employers and peer review also enhances the learning experience.

Evaluation

Students' reflective report entries consistently illustrate how they find the skills and experience they acquire during the course invaluable when applying for graduate positions in their final year. Employers also report positively on the added value students bring to their organisations' development. 
 
Clive Smith, Managing Director, Turbinate Technologies Limited said: "As a start-up business, it is important for us to test ideas and market perception of the product we intend to develop. The analysis the students undertook has fundamentally changed our target market and their fresh input and perspective has been extremely beneficial for our organisation."

Impact

Other academic Schools and disciplines within the University have been made aware of the course through tailored dissemination activities. As a direct result of sharing practice with colleagues, the course has now been adapted within the School of Engineering. This new Engineering Work Experience (ED251A) course has been customised to specifically address student retention, progression and employability through enabling second year engineering students to interact with relevant local engineering organisations. This approach also helps to inspire students regarding engineering employment opportunities, including graduate posts and internships at an early stage in their degree programme.

Dissemination

The initiative has been shared via a range of local and national dissemination activities with academics, employers and careers professionals via:
 
Presenting to colleagues in the School of Social Science to
improve staff awareness and understanding of the School's work-based project provision and at the MA Programme Advisory Board.
 
Sharing the initiative's learning across the UK HE sector via a case study in the Universities Scotland report, Made It Happen (November 2018). Future dissemination:
 
Showcasing the initiative via a talk at the Enhancing Student Learning through Innovative Scholarship Conference, Edinburgh Napier University (July 2019).
 
Sharing effective practice meeting at Brunel University (July 2019).