A new paper produced by Bridget Wibrow’s and published by NCVER, brought the Employability Skills back to the big table.
These employability skills, are indeed work skills such as solving problems, using mathematical techniques and so on, which are indispensable to be effective in the workplace, and therefore must be embedded into training courses; even into the higher education sector.
Ms Wibrow sent key messages on her report:
Employability skills are a set of broad skills, including communication, problem-solving and teamwork. They are regarded by employers as very important — technical skills alone no longer suffice for people entering and advancing in the workplace.
An operational definition of ’employability skills’ is needed to reduce industry and VET practitioner confusion associated with the term. Learners would also benefit from clarification.
The most significant development since 2002 is the embedding of employability skills into training packages, although disagreement remains over whether employability skills should be embedded at the qualification or unit of competency level.
Teachers are uncertain about how to teach and assess employability skills. Professional development programs could help to ensure that teachers are equipped to teach these skills.
Consistency continues to be an issue in assessing and reporting employability skills. Appropriate methods such as integrated assessment and descriptive reporting are required.
During 2005 the National Quality Council superseded the key competencies, with the new “Employability Skills,” (but which look like the originals). These skills, like emotional intelligence are things most of us work out as we grow up and learn about life and they are hard to inculcate and assess.
Ms Wibrow introduces the topic from the workplace perspective: “In a competitive workforce it is not just having the right qualification or technical skills that will land an individual a job; it could very well be their interpersonal skills. How someone communicates is often the first impression an employer has of a possible worker. Yet, it is precisely communication skills that employers feel applicants are most lacking (Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations 2011).
In line with modern economies, workplaces are constantly changing and as a result employers are looking for employees who are adaptable and who have skills beyond the technical (Maxwell 2010). For example, a survey of CEOs found that 33.1% of employers consider employability skills to be the most important factor when employing graduates, whereas only 19.2% rated relevant work experience above employability skills (Australian Industry Group & Deloitte 2009).”
Teaching Employability Skills
Teaching these generic, transferable work skills has been a real challenge for the VET and Higher Education sector. For Ms Widrow “There are three important issues to consider when looking at how employability skills are taught. These are how well they are understood by teachers, the impact this has on students, and whether there is a role for employers.
Involving employers in training is one way to help teachers to better understand employability skills and their links to the workplace. Some of these skills are easier to learn on the job and employers are ideally placed to provide the opportunity for learners to practise in a work environment. In this way learners will rapidly recognise the importance of both sets of skills to the workplace. The result is likely to be better-equipped graduates, who understand that these are the skills that employers take seriously when assessing candidates for jobs.
The key challenges ahead lie in ensuring that teachers are equipped to teach these skills and that appropriate and consistent methods of assessing and reporting are available and utilised. Improving the ability of teachers to effectively teach employability skills will have a concomitant effect on learners: their capacity to engage with the notion of employability skills and to transfer what they have learnt during training to their future employment will be greatly expanded. The issue of consistency in reporting and assessment standards across training packages requires direct industry action — perhaps through industry skills councils. Finally, to further advance the crucial position of employability skills in today’s training arena demands an operational definition of employability skills, one that can be used with equal understanding by industry and practitioners.”
New Employability Skills Framework
DEEWR has, as part of the National Foundation Skills Strategy, begun development of an employability skills framework. The aim of the Skills Strategy is to address structural issues within the national training system to improve foundation skills. This project is due for completion mid-2012, after which the framework will be implemented. It is hoped that this framework will be successful in setting consistent standards, at the same time assisting teachers to improve their knowledge and understanding of these skills, for the ultimate benefit of the next generation of learners.
Reference: Employability Skills at a Glance, Bridget Wibrow, NCVER