Welcome to the September and October Learning & Teaching Enhancement Theme: Careers and Employability. In this first post, Colm Harmon, Vice-Principal Students, introduces the series, contextualising its importance in the landscape of the current Curriculum Transformation Programme. Helen Stringer, Assistant Director of the Careers Service, then provides some insights into the content of the series, before Colm offers a concluding statement. This post is part of the L&T Enhancement Series: Careers and Employability.
It has been a while since we have devoted time and space to the topic, but the Curriculum Transformation Programme provides a welcome and ideal opportunity to re-visit and re-invigorate thinking around careers and employability, and consider how we adapt to – and capitalise on – the post pandemic realities.
What has been most obvious in our discussions to date is how students fear what is coming next, and feel that the University must play a critical role in their future directions. Not necessarily in training them to be something or other, but rather having some interest and instinct for what they will need to make the first steps in this altogether more uncertain world, in life and career.
This series of blog posts will stimulate that thinking, and I hope to see it spill over into our ongoing conversation about the future of learning and teaching. A striking aspect of this series will be the explicit recognition of shared agendas and mutual benefit. Topics such as resilience, risk taking, feedback, personal growth, and student agency emerge in many settings – the trick is to recognise and harness synergies to the benefit of all.
The university experience is marked by transitions, whether into, through or beyond. We have a shared responsibility and opportunity to help our students navigate and manage these. Do this well, and we ensure success on all fronts: academic; personal; and professional. Our student community has multiple voices and perspectives. We understand that students can – and should – define their own vision of success. Our role is to foster a fertile environment where students can explore, experiment, and experience, and to support them in crafting, implementing and achieving their future.
Throughout September and October, Teaching Matters will be host to a range of ideas, voices and perspectives, from blue skies thinking to more concrete, practical initiatives grounded in the here and now. Shelagh Green will be contextualising the recent Careers Review, commissioned by the ScotGov. She will pose questions about our own institutional response, advancing Curriculum Transformation as a vehicle to deliver on the pertinent recommendations. Sharon Maguire will be sharing her reflections on ‘Life Design’, and how the principles of design thinking can translate to career planning, engaging students where they are, and giving them time and space to be playful and creative.
We have invited students to share their experiences of Employ.ed on Campus internships. Niamh Melvin, a final year English student, makes a compelling argument for taking risks, finding ‘stretch’, and using the opportunity to develop a broad range of skills, all which boost confidence and employability. Here’s a small teaser from Niamh:
“Having enough time to really develop different skills, as well as working in different environments meant that I was able to think about skill sets quite fully over the three month internship”.
To complement the internal view, we will also hear from employers who share their insights on the impact of Covid, and what this means for students in a changed – and changing – recruitment landscape. No doubt this will highlight the need for a strong and adaptive skills portfolio, which is something I am confident curriculum transformation will help deliver for our students and graduates.
I am delighted, and indeed proud, that the University community – through colleagues contributing, commenting, and shaping their thoughts on this issue – are going well above and beyond the conventions of curriculum that we are used to. This is the issue that will ’transform’ the experience.
Colm Harmon is Vice-Principal Students and holds a personal chair in Applied Economics. As Vice-Principal Students he has strategic responsibility for student experience and the development of innovative approaches to all aspects of student satisfaction and experience, including curriculum development, and the nurturing of a high-performance culture in teaching and learning. Before joining Edinburgh Colm was Vice-Provost (Academic Performance) and Professor of Economics, University of Sydney. Prior to this his academic career was at University College Dublin most latterly as Professor of Economics and Director of the Geary Institute.
Helen Stringer is Assistant Director of the Careers Service, with a remit for developing and strengthening academic partnerships. Helen has been working with academic and professional services colleagues to advance careers and employability across Schools and Colleges, contributing to the Curriculum Transformation Project, and finding opportunities to pilot new approaches.