Promising Practices for Developing Essential Employability Qualities

In the 2017-18 academic year, The QA Commons partnered with 27 programs from 14 colleges and universities to co-design the Essential Employability Qualities Certification. As a result of our work together, we identified several programmatic and institutional promising practices to support students’ development of these qualities. Below are brief descriptions of these promising practices.

Employability is the ability to find, create and sustain work and learning across lengthening working lives and multiple work settings.

EEQ Development & Assessment

  • Degree programs intentionally designed to develop, address, and assess expected EEQ exit proficiencies so there is assurance that all students will graduate from the program fully prepared.
  • Applied research projects designed to addresses real problems in a partner employer’s organizations.
  • Course-embedded community service projects that allow students to directly apply their learning to real community needs.
  • Specific assignments designed so that students can learn content while also practicing different EEQs (e.g., written proposals, presentations, team-based formats, etc.).
  • Experiential learning pathways that allow students to apply their learning in work-relevant situations at several points throughout a program.
  • Team-based capstone projects situated in workplaces and co-taught with employers.
  • Classes co-taught with employers; employers involved in directly assessing student work.

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Career Development, Planning, and Support

  • Courses intentionally designed to support students in understanding the world of work and its expectations.
  • Career development programming integrated across the curriculum and over time, such as embedded career planning activities in courses.
  • Guest speakers from industries and organizations embedded in courses to engage students in considering industry or organization-specific career possibilities.
  • A cross-campus integrated approach to career preparedness through civic engagement.

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Student Records

  • Enhanced student records that convey students’ EEQ development and outcomes in visually accessible and appealing ways.
  • Competency-based badging practices that communicate students’ abilities in visible, verifiable ways.

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Employer Engagement

  • Employer engagement models that go well beyond a traditional Advisory Board into authentic partnerships, or even “employer-attached” curriculum and pedagogy (where employers serve as co-faculty and assessors of student work).
  • Employers and programs working together to develop and test new approaches, such as badging, developing talent pipelines through partnerships, and work-integrated learning modules.

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Graduate / Alumni Feedback

  • Use of findings from well-designed alumni surveys, which address not only program satisfaction but also graduates’ sense of preparedness for employment, graduate employment outcomes, and feedback for program improvement.
  • Purposeful inclusion of alumni who employ program graduates into advisory boards or other feedback mechanisms.

We’re grateful to our partner programs for their contributions to this work! Read the full EEQ CERT Pilot Finding Report HERE.

New Approaches to Judging Quality

New Approaches

The QA Commons’ program-level quality assurance approach, the Essential Employability Qualities Certification — or EEQ CERT — was recently featured in this CHEA white paper (see pages 12-13): New Approaches to Judging Quality

 

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

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!

 

 

Perspectives: Employer Representatives Ideas about the Essential Employability Qualities Certification

While we have been co-designing the Essential Employability Qualities Certification (EEQ CERT) with 27 partner programs from 14 colleges and universities, we have also been gathering feedback from a variety of employer representatives and employers. We have been committed all along to engaging with employer perspectives in the design of our new approach to quality assurance, in part because their voices have traditionally been absent from quality assurance approaches (with the exception of a few professional accreditors), but also because truly bridging the gap between higher education and the workforce requires such kinds of partnerships.

Read our first report with employer representative feedback here:

Employer Engagement & Feedback Report

At the end of the report are links to a variety of resources they recommended, so make sure to check these out as well.