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. 

Building Trust & Other Connecting Credentials Reports Released

Connecting Credentials just released five workgroup reports with important new insights on achieving a well-functioning, learner-centered credentialing ecosystem. Ralph Wolff and Melanie Booth from The QA Commons served as co-chairs with Nate Anderson from Jobs for the Future for the group that worked on Building Trust in the Quality of Credentials. This report outlines three conditions in which trust in quality credentials can be promoted: quality, evidence, and transparency.  From the report:
To build greater trust, we need improvements across the three domains of trust—quality, evidence and transparency. We need quality assurance processes to become more transparent and aligned with workforce needs and to promote adherence to, and continuous improvement of, these standards. We need more complete and comprehensive data collection and research/evaluation efforts to produce evidence of credential outcomes and value. We need increased transparency and much greater investment in guidance to help users make informed choices about a credential’s value for their purposes. To make informed choices, consumers, especially “first-generation learners,” need help and context to understand what data are important, what the data mean, and how to rely on evidence and data to make decisions.

The Building Trust report identifies some promising approaches in the field to address this issue, and concludes with a set of recommendations for action.

The five reports are:

  • Aligning Supply and Demand Signals – This workgroup describes the opportunity presented by the convergence of technology changes and increasing focus on competencies to transform hiring and job searches.
  • Improving Learner Mobility – This group recommended actions to strengthen the meaning and role for shorter-term credentials (certificates, certifications, badges, and more) in education and employment.
  • Making All Learning Counts a Reality – This group created a two-part model to help understand what learning doesn’t count for either educational credit or employment, and made recommendations centered on opportunities to ensure work-based learning is recognized for both purposes.

Each report contains an overview of the issue on which the workgroup focused, examples of promising practices, and recommended actions. This set of reports offers an important supplement to the recommended actions published a year ago in From National Dialogue to Collective Action: Building Learning-Based Credentialing Systems.

 

Slides From IUPUI Assessment Institute

Peter Ewell and Melanie Booth from The QA Commons presented about the EEQ Certification project at the IUPUI Assessment Institute on October 23, 2017.  Here are the slides:

In attending the conference, we also learned about a lot of programs and institutions doing good work in the areas we are exploring: engaging students in assessment; assuring high quality experiential learning opportunities for students to apply their learning to work-based contexts; documenting and assessing student learning with ePortfolios; etc. We’re eager to soon share some new resources as a result on our Resource webpage, so check back soon!

EEQ Pilot Research Questions

Enter

Learning is Here | by cogdogblog

The Quality Assurance Commons is working with 27 programs from 14 higher educational institutions to co-design and pilot a new approach to program-level quality assurance that focuses on developing students’ Essential Employability Qualities (EEQs). These EEQs include:

  1. People skills such as collaboration, teamwork and cross-cultural competence;
  2. Problem-solving abilities such as inquiry, critical thinking and creativity; and
  3. Professional strengths such as communication, work ethic and technological agility.

We have several research questions guiding this work, which we are addressing together during the pilot process, including:

  • Do the draft criteria reflect the needs of students and employers and support program effectiveness?
  • What are the most relevant and useful indicators of success for each criterion?
  • What data are publically available, relevant, and useful in identifying program performance and outcomes vis-à-vis the criteria?
  • What is the best way to validate and evaluate data provided by an institution or program?
  • What are the best ways to connect program outcomes with institutional support services, such as career services, student advising, etc.?
  • In what ways will the quality assurance process provide value to institutions and programs while not creating additional reporting burdens?
  • How can EEQ Certification communicate program quality and performance successfully to students, employers, community members, and other external stakeholders as well as to the institution and/or program being reviewed?
  • How might the certification approach best be aligned with other quality assurance processes, such as program reviews and regional, national, and programmatic accreditation?

We are also exploring the delicate but essential balance between developing a rigorous process so that a certification can be meaningful to employers and students with the reality of programs’ capacity.

What other questions should we try to address as we work with our partner programs to develop this approach? Let us know in the comments below!

News About The EEQ Pilot

Two pieces have recently been published about the EEQ Pilot  project- see them here:

Next-Generation Quality Assurance for Tomorrow’s Talent – by Debra Humphreys, Lumina Foundation

Group Attempts New Twist on Accreditation – by Paul Fain, Inside Higher Ed