What if... ?
What Employers WantYoung people are taught by educators, not employers. However, employers are the "end user" so theys must be specific about what they mean by 'communication skills', 'self-management skills', etc. A simple, but comprehensive, open source skills taxonomy will set the foundation of understanding between all parties
Every employer survey since the CBI's 1989 report has shown two things: 1)employers' emphasis on the importance of employability skills and 2) continued dissatisfaction with particular "soft" skills required in every workplace e.g. communication and business/customer awareness.
Employers want applicants with employability skills, but the definition of these skills varies from company to company, and even departments within the same company. For schools, colleges and universities, without a clear definition, they are unable to teach and assess "employability skills" because it will never fit into their required "learning outcomes assessment criteria" frameworks. This results in academia being unable to deliver what the majority of students want: "a nationally recognised record of the employability skills you have developed..."(CBI/NUS, 2011)
Almost half of students say that the importance of employability hasn't been explained to them during their time at university (CBI/NUS 2011), while universities are admitting that they aren't best equipped to teach employability without more input from employers (MMU Employability and Citizenship Conference 2012).
Instead of asking employers if they are happy with, for example, graduates' communication skills we propose a 3 phase solution to these problems:
Phase 1: Defining employability
Young people and educators know employers want employability skills but they are not provided with sufficient information to know exactly what employers mean by "communication skills" and "self management skills". With a detailed, public domain taxonomy crowd-sourced by a wide range of UK employers, schools, colleges and universities have exactly what was proposed at the 2005 JISC CETIS conference: "Break down skills into smaller parts until they are no longer disagreed on".
Phase 2: Training for employability
With the complete taxonomy/rubric created in Phase 1, publicly available as open source, educators and employers can develop employability training which makes sense both in the classroom and in the work place. Because of its nature, the assessment of a student’s employability skills cannot simply be a single letter grade or even a percentage score. The student’s performance must be assessed, and marks exposed, for each of the individual dimensions exposed in Phase 1.
Phase 3: Hiring on employability
With a successful conclusion of Phase 2, students will not only have a nationally recognized record of their employability skills, but the granularity of the assessment will be such that it will address two of the main issues employers have when hiring new graduates:
- Existing academic qualifications are no longer considered a good differentiator of candidates.
- Different employers value different employability skills.
A simple prototype to demonstrate how this “weighted assessment” would work can be found at: http://www.sbskills.com/taxotest/