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.

 

Bridging the Gap: Creating a New Approach for Assuring 21st Century Employability Skills

Want to know more about the work of The Quality Assurance Commons and the Essential Employability Qualities Certification?

Here is our just-released Change article Bridging the Gap: Creating a New Approach for Assuring 21st Century Employability Skills, in which we discuss the need for the Essential Employability Qualities Certification that we are developing with 27 programs from 14 institutions.

Let us know what you think in the comments below!

 

Revised draft Criteria for EEQ Certification

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As a result of analyzing the Inventories of Practice and Evidence that all 27 EEQ CERT pilot programs submitted, The QA Commons’ team is happy to publicly release a substantial revision to the draft Criteria for EEQ Certification. This new version — version 2 — will be tested during phase 2 of the pilot co-design process in spring 2018, when programs submit program portfolios of evidence.  Please feel free to a look and offer any comments for consideration in the comments box below:

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.