Showcase Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia 2015

Integrating employability skills in the business curriculum (#50)

Valeria S Cotronei-Baird 1
  1. University of Melbourne, Clayton, VIC, Australia

The current economy and labour market is characterised by constant change and an increasing emphasis on hiring graduates who possess a range of complex skills in addition to discipline specific knowledge and skills. In this economic climate universities are expected to contribute to the development of student’s employability skills. Yet, despite this expectation it is argued that a graduate skills gap remains as a result of a mismatch between industry skill requirements and university curriculum. While universities have put in place a range of policies and initiatives that seek to foster a commitment from university teaching staff to integrate employability skills within the curriculum, there is less known about how academic teaching staff responsible for the design and delivery of curriculum understand employability skills and to what extent they integrate the development of students’ employability skills in their teaching practice. 

In this Showcase Presentation I will discuss the preliminary findings of a study investigating how academic teaching staff in a business faculty understand employability skills and to what extent they include the development of students’ employability skill in their curriculum and teaching practice. The qualitative study involved analysis of data from interviews with academic teaching staff, and classroom observations as well as content analysis of curriculum documents. I will discus two main findings from my study. Firstly, the data indicates that there is both a shared and divergent view of employability skills among teaching staff, however, the teaching staffs’ academic position and discipline area influences their understanding. Secondly there appears to be a mismatch between academic teaching staffs’ understanding of employability skills and teaching practice. The presentation will conclude with a brief discussion of the implications for university educators, particularly in relation to curriculum design for developing and enhancing students’ employability skills and graduate outcomes.

This paper addresses the sub-theme ‘Assessing, evidencing and evaluating graduate capabilities’ of the HERDSA 2015 Conference: Learning for life and work in a complex world. In particular this Showcase Presentation will seek to answer the question ‘How do we ensure that our students’ learning experiences contribute to the development of their graduate capabilities? What strategies, approaches and policies can support this?’ The paper addresses this sub-theme and questions by contributing to the development of new knowledge on university curriculum design and practice with a specific focus on the inculcation of graduate employability skills in the business faculty. As employability skills are increasingly considered an important graduate learning outcome, insight into teaching academics’ understanding and teaching practice of employability skills through an assessment of how and to what extent employability skills are integrated into the design and delivery of curriculum will allow for the development of a practice driven understanding of curriculum design, development and delivery. This knowledge can lend to the development of future business faculty curriculum that adds clarity and provides concrete examples of what works and what does not in students’ teaching and learning environment that seeks to develop students’ graduate capabilities.

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