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Mike Leam

Badges, Facebook and eportfolii: ePortfolios for Employability – Promoting Career Learning through Business Engagement -- 40 -- Short (oral) Paper
September 12 9:00AM

The HE White Paper ‘Students at the Heart of the System’ concludes that “The relationship between universities and colleges, students and employers is crucial to ensuring that students experience the higher education they want while studying and leave their course equipped to embark on a rewarding career"(2011, p45).

Introducing the Key Information Set for September 2012 has highlighted the stark data requirements for demonstrating numerical employability statistics to prospective students, and Higher and Further Education institutions are responding by pitching their energies into addressing student employability across all academic disciplines. Thus, the Higher Education sector is ever more challenged with embedding employability into its learning and teaching.

How student expectations will be manifested is not an exact science, but increasingly the question students are asking is ‘will I get a good job?’ What can institutions do now to respond and do they have the structures in place?

This presentation will describe project work at the University of Nottingham which aims to join employability learning with business engagement to deliver mutually satisfactory and cohesive outcomes for student, university and employers, acknowledging their different starting points and finding common ground to promote career learning and knowledge exchange.

Increased opportunities for placements and internships are integral, as is raising student accessibility to employers. Institutions seek to widen business engagement activities to encompass not only the large ‘milkround’ employers, but also the small, medium and social enterprises, 3rd sector and local entrepreneur communities who comprise a significant employer base, not always considered by students.

Correspondingly, universities hold vast arrays of knowledge, skills and research of interest to these groups who in turn can offer employability learning opportunities to students, but these are often hard to access, compounded by the diversity of business engagement, career and teaching and learning processes within a large institution. The SHED project aims to join people and technologies from these areas to develop career learning and professionalism spaces for students, using ePortfolio for recording and showcase skills and interests, offering an interface for students and employers, thus contributing to student learning about employer sectors and transferable skill demand. A sister project, ESCAPES, is improving the placement learning processes from a student perspective, and embedding new practice for career learning, placement preparation and reflection through ePortfolios, thus embedding professionalism and career learning into the student's course.

Through these projects, the CIePD has sought the student voice on career learning and employability. Discussions with small businesses have revealed usability and accessibility issues in engaging with Universities. Further investigations are also underway to develop institution and community gateways to maximise professional learning through development of an online space where career learning can emerge from the boundary of University and Community.