Defining and Delivering on Quality in Higher Education: The EEQ CERT

In early June, The QA Commons concluded the Essential Employability Qualities Certification (EEQ CERT) Pilot, in which we partnered with 27 programs from 14 colleges and universities to co-design a new approach to assuring that graduates are prepared for the 21st century world of work. Key aspects of this initiative include addressing quality as well as equity gaps in learning and preparation:

We know that high-quality credentials beyond high school can transform lives — that they open doors to economic opportunity and social mobility and help individuals flourish in a challenging world. But we also know that not everyone who pursues learning beyond high school actually gets a high-quality experience. Too few even get to the finish line and earn a credential. And some who do, still struggle to find employment and succeed in today’s workplace.

Quality Assurance Commons and the EEQs will help address this gap. They also will help institutions make good on an equally urgent promise of closing equity gaps in access to quality experiences and in post-graduation outcomes. QA Commons pilot efforts and other research show that far too few institutions gather and use enough good data on how well their students learn and how they fare after graduation. Moreover, even when collecting data, far too few institutions disaggregate their data to uncover hidden inequities in access to quality experiences — especially across different racial/ethnic groups.

Read the full article by Debra Humphreys HERE.

We are grateful to Lumina Foundation for its wonderful support of this initiative.

The EEQ CERT Pilot – Recent Conference Presentations

The QA Commons team and several EEQ CERT pilot partners have been on the road, presenting at conferences and getting the word out about our Essential Employability Qualities Certification pilot and our initial findings.

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Slide from DEAC Conference presentation about the pilot program learning community.

Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education Student Success Summit – with Niesha Ziehmke, Guttman Community College and Joan Cook, University of Wisconsin – Whitewater

Assuring Graduates are Prepared for the 21st Century Workforce – A Model for Kentucky?

Distance Education Accrediting Commission Conference – with Kimberley Winfield and Christine Jax, Ashworth College

The Essential Employability Qualities Certification: A New Approach to Address Employer Needs and Assure Program Quality

WASC Senior College & University Commission – with Laurie Dodge, Brandman University

Bridging the Gap: Assuring Graduate Readiness for the 21st Century with Essential Employability Qualities

Integrating 21st Century Skills into the College Classroom – A New Course Offering

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In response to growing interest in teaching “21st century skills” at the postsecondary level, Matt Hora (author of Beyond the Skills Gap) has developed an online 7-week survey course at UW-Madison’s Division of Continuing Studies on the topic.

Check out the course info HERE.

The course is designed to give faculty and instructors an introduction to the research behind four skills – communication, teamwork, self-regulated learning, and critical thinking – and practical tips on how to integrate them into college courses.  The course also takes a critical look at the skills discourse surrounding 21st century skills, and emphasizes disciplinary approaches to curriculum design and instruction.  Through video-taped lectures, course readings, online annotation, and case study problems, the goal of the course is to help learners transform an existing lesson plan or course syllabus to prominently feature one of the four skills.  They hope that the course will be a valuable resource for faculty developers, instructors hoping to improve their teaching, and for anyone interested in skills-related issues.

 

More on Developing employABILITY Thinking: An Australian Initiative Going Global

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The employABILITY Initiative is led by Professor Dawn Bennett from Curtin University, Australia. Dawn makes the link between employability and higher education through her work on “employABILITY thinking”: students’ cognitive and social development as capable and informed individuals, professionals, and social citizens. You can read more on this thinking in her recent post.

EmployABILITY educator guides, student resources, and a self-assessment tool are available without charge to all higher education teachers and students. Professor Bennett emphasises that embedding employABILITY thinking in post-secondary classrooms means doing things a little differently, rather than doing more.

Students begin by creating a personalised profile using an online profile tool. Most programs incorporate the profile tool as a required task or reading, or in some cases as an in-class activity. The profile report gives students multiple opportunities to engage with their development and underpins career- and self-development activities in class. Student advisers and teachers can trial the tool by entering ‘test’ where it asks for the student number; Dawn recommends 15 – 20 minutes for this task.

For more information and a short introduction to the model and validated measure, visit the educator website. Registration is quick and will give you access to all resources, events and articles. You can also access the student site to explore the student resources.

Finally, the Australian initiative has established a global LinkedIn community with weekly resources, easy steps and lots of support. Follow these simple steps to get started.

Our gratitude to Dawn for being willing to partner with us and to connect the employABILITY resources with The QA Commons work on Essential Employability Qualities and the EEQ CERT. 

Learning from Life and Work – New Report from New England Board of Higher Education

We’ve added another new Resource: The New England Board of Higher Education Learning for Life & Work Report

On March 19, 2018, the Commission on Higher Education and Employability released its final report, Learning for Life and Work. The report details 19 recommendations, as well as strategies for stakeholders to collaborate to increase the employability of the region’s graduates.

The report’s recommendations are grouped in 6 areas:

  1. Effective Use of Labor Market Data and Intelligence
  2. Targeted Higher Education-Industry Partnerships
  3. Planning, Advising and Career Services
  4. Work-integrated, Cooperative and Internship-based Learning
  5. Digital Competencies
  6. Emerging Credentials and Credentialing System

 

EmployABILITY – New Resources

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Thanks to Flazingo Photos for allowing use of this photo.

Two new resources have been added over on our Resources page – check them out:

Developing EmployABILITY:  EmployABILITY is the ability to create and sustain meaningful work across the career lifespan. This is a developmental process which students need to learn before they graduate. The Developing EmployABILITY Initiative is a collaboration involving over 20 higher education institutions and over 400 scholars internationally. Our goal is to enable and embed employABILITY thinking in the curriculum. The Initiative is led by Professor Dawn Bennett at Curtin University. New collaborators are always welcome. The Developing EmployABILITY website for educators is full of resources to support developing employability qualities in students.

Engagement and Employability Integrating Career Learning through Cocurricular Experiences in Postsecondary Education – A NASPA publication, which provides a discussion and numerous examples of how to identify, measure, and assess employability skills as an outcome of cocurricular experiences.

Developing Employability: A Beyond-Disciplinary Transformative Approach to Higher and Postsecondary Education

The QA Commons recently co-presented with Jeff King from University of Central Oklahoma and Niesha Ziehmke from Charles and Stella Guttman Community College (two of our 27 EEQ CERT co-design partners) about the EEQ CERT co-design process and transformative learning at the 2018 Transformative Learning Conference, March 8 and 9, 2018, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Here are our slides:

 

And HERE is the extended abstract of our presentation.

Enjoy!

 

 

Beyond the Skills Gap: Preparing College Students for Life and Work

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Beyond the Skills Gap: Preparing College Students for Life and Work just received the Ness Book Award at the 2018 AAC&U conference. I attended the authors’ session at the conference and learned quite a bit about their research and work in Wisconsin, and the connections to the Essential Employability Qualities Certification that we are developing. It was an informative and provocative session, with some critical considerations for higher educational programs seeking to make sure their graduates are prepared not just for their first jobs, but for a lifetime of employability in the changing world of work they will encounter. 

BOOK SUMMARY:

Beyond the Skills Gap: Preparing College Students for Life and Work explores how educators can ensure that graduates are adequately prepared for the future, challenging the argument that sluggish economic growth is due to a higher education system insufficiently attuned to workplace needs, with the solution being more specialized technical training and fewer liberal arts graduates. The book’s authors challenge this conception of the “skills gap,” highlighting instead the value of broader twenty-first-century skills in postsecondary education. In the book, the authors advocate for a system in which employers share responsibility along with the education sector to serve the collective needs of the economy, society, and students. Beyond the Skills Gap emphasizes the critical role of educational practice and design in preparing students for the workforce and ensuring that future employees develop robust technical expertise, cultivate problem-solving and communication skills, transfer abstract knowledge to real-world situations, and foster a lifelong aptitude for self-directed learning.

HERE is a link to the session slides posted by Matt Hora, one of the book’s authors and the key presenter at the session. Take a look at slide #14 about classroom methods. Also, check out the “Six things we need to do” at the end. Many of these actions align to our Draft Criteria for Certification – Version 2.  What do you think? 

How Is Your Institution Preparing Students for Careers and Employability?

by Melanie Booth

Last week I attended a Lumina Foundation convening called Next Generation Work-Based Learning, during which we engaged with five colleges and universities that are addressing work-based learning in a variety of ways. The institutions, represented by small teams (which included students!), were:

This convening  had as its main intention the sharing of current work and challenges related to work-based learning, and laying the groundwork for a potential multi-institutional project focused on enhancing and expanding equity in work-based learning opportunities. If you’re a follower of our work, you will know this is right up our alley, so it was great to be invited to participate and to learn.

I gleaned several take-aways from this convening, including some ways that institutions might reflect on how they are structured and resourced to support their students in preparing for the complex world of work in the 21st century.

1) What is the ratio of career services staff to students? 

Of the five institutions represented, the ratios of career services staff to students were all over the board, and of course this basic metric is by no means an indicator of quality or effectiveness. For one thing, it depends on how you count career services personnel — in some cases, some were career counselors situated in career centers, some were departmental faculty engaged in career-oriented student support (such as internship placements), and some were staff embedded in an academic advising unit or another existing office.  However, it could be useful for institutions to consider the potential of this information as a baseline for what they have in place. Then they could consider how (and how well) career services in all forms are deployed at the institution.

2) Where, how, and how well are career services deployed organizationally?

Some institutions had a designated career support team for individual schools, such as the school of business, and then a career services office for, well, everyone else. Some institutions had faculty charged with advising, including career and internship advising, while a career services office was charged more with helping students prepare for the job search process. Some had career services centralized; others had career services totally decentralized; and of course there are mixed models. Institutions wishing to self-assess might want to first inventory their existing organizational structures, talk to their students to understand the benefits and challenges of the existing structures, consider how to best deploy career services support for all students, and then consider what would be their most useful evidence of effectiveness.

 3) How are institutions addressing inequities in networks that students have?

Coming to college with well-established and helpful networks for career preparation is a particular challenge for low SES and first generation students. To address this inequity and the need for student support in this area, some institutions have designed intentional programs (e.g., alumni mentor housing arrangements for summer internships) that can support network development and networking skills. Likewise, each institution at this meeting was considering how they supported all students in their “professional socialization.” With the new majority students attending higher education, the traditional suite of career services offerings may no longer be sufficient for serving all populations.

4) Do students have on-campus jobs, and if so, to what extent are they intentionally designed as learning opportunities?

On-campus jobs for students can be leveraged as learning opportunities with intentional planning and support structures. For example:

  • Do positions have job descriptions and learning outcomes? Do students know what they can expect to learn from an on-campus job?
  • Are supervisors trained in developing work-based learning in their units and assessing it?
  • Do supervisors give students feedback, and is student performance recorded anywhere?
  • Do students reflect on their experiences and make meaning from them in regard to their professional preparation?
  • Are students engaged in substantive work projects they could add to a portfolio or cite on their resume or LinkedIn profile?

5) How are off-campus jobs leveraged?

58% of students work while enrolled in college. Whether this is full-time or part-time employment, how is the institution intentionally integrating or leveraging these off-campus work experiences for students to connect with their academic learning and to build on professionally?

6) What is the overall coherence of career and professional development programming to support employability preparation across an institution? 

Is the campus as a whole directed not only at academic learning, but at work-based learning and employability preparation? What are the intentional practices in place to support this for all students, and how effective are they as a cohesive approach? Again, these are just a few questions institutions could use to self-assess their own approach and determine any areas to improve.

7) What do students say?

As represented by the students participating in the convening, students themselves (as well as recent alumni) can offer valuable feedback and ideas to better support their professional development and career preparation. It’s worth partnering with students to determine what’s working, what could be improved, and how to go about best supporting students in this area.

On this note, I will conclude with this statement from one of the students represented from these five institutions during the student panel session of the meeting:

Students need to have opportunities to put our ideas into practice, to test, to experiment, to apply, and to deepen our learning and prepare for our futures. Colleges need to provide these opportunities for us; we are not all positioned to get them on our own, or even to know we need them.