10 Employability Skills Universities Need to Teach Students
What Are Employability Skills?
The term ‘employability skills’ describes a group of core transferable skills and personal characteristics employers look for in potential job candidates. Applicants with these skills are attractive to future employers because they are more likely to perform effectively and become valuable team members.
If you are teaching university students, you can help them develop important skills that will foster their ability to work with teammates, solve workplace problems, meet project timelines, and stay up to date with industry changes. Employability skills are sometimes also known as soft skills, foundational skills, basic skills, or job-readiness skills.
Are Employability Skills Different to Job Skills Specific for a Role?
Yes. Unlike the professional or technical job specific skills required for particular careers, employability skills are generic and necessary for almost every job. For example, communication and teamwork skills are vital in every industry, whether it’s in construction, healthcare, engineering, information technology, or the arts.
10 Job Skills Students Need to Develop
For university students, there’s more to tertiary education than gaining good marks and an academic qualification. While teaching classes, you can also be facilitating the development of key employability skills that will boost your students’ chances of finding a great job. Here are 10 examples of employability skills you can foster in your students.
Good communication skills are vital in every job. Communication involves the ability to express yourself clearly and effectively, both verbally and in writing, and strong listening skills. Communication skills also encompass the ability to use and interpret non-verbal language, such as gestures.
You can support the development of communication skills in your students by encouraging them to:
- blog and/or use social media to express their thoughts and ideas
- give oral presentations as part of their studies
- join a community group or club, or do paid work
- practise active and empathetic listening
- join a public speaking, peer support or networking group.
Teamwork is essential for workplaces to operate efficiently. It involves the ability to work cooperatively to pursue shared goals. You could help students achieve better teamwork skills by recommending they:
- participate in group assignments and projects throughout their course
- join a sports team, study skills group or community organisation
- establish relationships with people from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds
- recognise their own strengths and limitations and those of their team mates
- coach or mentor others.
In an increasingly complex world, students need the skills to understand, work through and solve problems. Challenges and setbacks are a normal part of working life, so they need processes for dealing with them.
You can establish problem solving skills in your students by suggesting they:
- look for things that need fixing at home and research how to do it
- participate in project-based learning, which requires finding solutions to real-world work challenges
- volunteer at a group that seeks to solve community, environmental or social issues
- look for problem solving and decision making opportunities in their current workplaces
- seek opportunities to creatively solve their challenges, such as balancing study with work, family and social activities.
Initiative is a valuable workplace skill because it involves seeking out work that needs to be done, rather than waiting to be told what to do. It also covers looking for better ways to do current work tasks.
Some ways to increase your students’ initiative skills include advising them to:
- take the lead on group projects or assignments
- practice writing a cover letter and job applications
- approach potential employers about internships or work placements
- look for ways to increase efficiencies or take on new responsibilities in their current workplaces
- organise a family or community event.
Read our ‘Effective Experiential Learning’ whitepaper to understand how students can better learn employability skills
Planning and organising
This requires considering what needs to be done, how, when, where, and by whom. These skills are vital for completing work to a satisfactory standard and meeting deadlines. You can support development of your students’ planning and organisational skills by recommending they:
- establish and stick to a study schedule
- plan research assignments to ensure they can meet deadlines
- organise a group project, family or community event
- arrange a travel/holiday itinerary.
Self-management is the ability to control your time and physical and mental energy to accomplish what you need to. It’s important in the workplace, where employers want staff to be able to do their jobs and meet deadlines without needing too much supervision.
Examples of ways to boost your student’s self-management skills include encouraging them to:
- complete an internship or project-based work placement
- establish a plan to manage their project timelines and different responsibilities
- participate in a community or volunteer organisation
- keep their room and study space tidy and organised
- take responsibility for their actions and the consequences.
In a rapidly changing globalised world, the ability to learn new information and practical skills is vital. A lifelong love of learning will support students throughout their careers. Some ways to improve your students’ learning skills include recommending they:
- participate in an experiential learning program or study skills course
- take up a new sport or new hobby, such as learning to play a musical instrument
- research how to perform new skills, such as changing a tyre or baking a souffle
- take advantage of different learning opportunities, such as peer mentoring or study groups
- remain open to new information, new ideas and different practices.
Technology skills probably sound like a given these days, but employers rate them highly. In addition to being able to compose a social post or email, valuable skills include the ability to use software programs and hardware such as an EFTPOS machine or video camera.
Your students could improve their technology skills by:
- completing an online course in a technology they’re not familiar with
- undertaking a work placement or internship that involves learning to use field-specific tech applications
- researching innovative solutions that involved designing creative technology
- asking their workplace or community group to train them to use their technologies
- researching what technology is used in their field and what training is involved.
Emotional intelligence (also sometimes known as emotional quotient or EQ) involves the ability to identify, understand and use emotions in healthy ways, in order to remain calm under pressure, communicate effectively, and develop good relationships.
Ways to help students develop better emotional intelligence skills include encouraging them to:
- notice their feelings in different circumstances and how they influence actions
- practise emotional control strategies, such as deep breathing
- build relationships with others who think differently to them
- look for non-verbal cues in others, such as body language and voice tone.
In a workplace where people have a range of different backgrounds, ideas and ways of working, some form of conflict is inevitable. Employers value team members who can resolve disagreements in a positive way – whether their own or between other people.
Your students could develop conflict resolution skills by:
- accepting conflict is part of life and being prepared to manage it
- actively listening to the other person and trying to understand their viewpoint
- separating the person from the problem they’re dealing with
- maintaining a professional attitude.
Supporting University Students to Develop Employability Skills
As evident, there are numerous ways educators can cultivate employability skills in their students. This typically does not involve more hours of academic learning. Rather, employability skills are developed through tasks that put academic knowledge into practice. For example, students can build employability skills by participating in authentic work projects at a business, government, or community organisation.
Developing Employability Skills with Experiential Learning
Increasingly, students need to complete university as work-ready graduates. Educators must therefore equip students with not only job specific technical or professional knowledge, but the employability skills they need to get and maintain work.
Experiential learning projects facilitate this outcome and have many benefits for everyone involved. For universities and other educational institutions, the ability to offer high-quality experiential learning projects is a powerful point of difference that can help you attract and retain students and establish mutually beneficial partnerships with industry, government and community partners.
How Practera Can Help Your University Foster Employability Skills in Students
Practera works with educational institutions to provide high-quality experiential learning programs, at scale and with reduced delivery costs.
Our fully supported and quality assured programs easily connect university students with genuine workplace experiences across a range of categories, such as internships (including virtual internships), team projects, work simulations and more. These are gathered from thousands of employers globally, including corporations, community organisations and government departments.
Crucially, Practera can deliver all our experiential learning programs virtually. Our pioneering and user-friendly platform has been developed to maximise learning quality and the student experience for both onsite and online delivery.
For educators, Practera’s research-backed feedback, assessment and performance tracking devices support top-quality remote program delivery, facilitating continued provision of experiential learning irrespective of COVID-19 restrictions.
Inbuilt tools to support a seamless experience and enhanced learning outcomes include:
Provision of timely, quality feedback
As one of Practera’s top strengths, our platform facilitates provision of individualised feedback from industry and educators. This is delivered consistently and at key times to drive reflection, deep learning, and enhanced student performance. Our Team360 assessments also enable educators to embed a peer feedback loop into learning activities.
Intrinsic assessment tools
Practera offers multiple options for assessing and progressing student learning. You can easily set
up various assessment types, including those which allow for a feedback loop and straightforward question-and-answer options. Grading student work is simplified with our user-friendly rubrics.
Practera’s real-time analytics and data dashboards enable you to rapidly identify any issues before they escalate, conduct detailed performance analyses, and capture end of program reports. Our world-first AI-assistant, known as ELSA, provides 24/7 monitoring to provide real-time recommendations based on research-backed learning science, saving you time and helping you deliver optimum learning outcomes.
Students who have participated in Practera’s programs frequently report the experience they gained was invaluable, helping them develop the necessary skills to secure employment.