PCUTL GROUP PROJECT Student perceptions of generic employment competencies across Science and Engineering Amy Herbert (PHRMY), Rhys Pullin (ENGIN), Matt O’Regan (EARTH) (Cohort 17) September 2011 PCUTL 2011 Background Background • Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects are an area of great interest for a number of organisational bodies: • Welsh Assembly Government, Leadership for Business and Higher Education, Higher Education Funding Councils (Wales and England), Council for Industry and Higher Education (CIHE) • STEM subjects are seen as key to delivering a stronger, more sustainable and resilient economy for the future in Wales • However, the Russel Group of Universities state that “Graduates in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM subjects) are vital for the UK’s future prosperity but they are in short supply and there are challenges in recruiting students onto these degree courses” Background A need to balance and convey employment needs with the recruitment and training of potential graduates in STEM subjects . . . But how is this done? Background 1. The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) • • developed benchmark statements that outline expectations about standards of degrees in a range of subject areas. These statements define what can be expected of a graduate in terms of the abilities and skills needed to develop understanding or competence in the subject. 2. The Higher Education Authority (HEA), subject centres and the Council for Industry and Higher Education (CIHE) produced Student Employability Profiles. • These map degree specific skills against CIHE defined employability skills, competencies, and attributes that are valued in recruiting. Background Subject Benchmark Indicators Employers-defined Employability Competencies Cognitive Skills Generic Competencies Personal Capabilities Technical Ability Business Awareness The ability to identify, and solve problems, work with information and handle a mass of diverse data, assess risk and draw conclusions. High level and transferable skills such as the ability to work with others in a team, communicate, persuade and have interpersonal sensitivity. The ability and desire to learn for oneself and improve ones selfawareness, emotional intelligence and performance. To be a self starter (creativity, decisiveness, initiative) and to finish the job (flexibility, adaptability, tolerance to stress). For example having the knowledge and experience of working with relevant modern technology. An appreciation of how business operate through having had (preferably relevant) work experience. Appreciation of organisational culture, policies and processes. Practical and Professional Elements Critical evaluation of the outcomes of professional practice, reflect and review own practice, participate in review quality control processes and risk management. Background The Student Employability Profiles are designed to help: • Inform curriculum design • Support the delivery of employability skills development in undergraduate students • Enhance the understanding of students/parents as to the value of degree level study • Communicate more effectively with employers in a shared language the skills students are expected to develop within specific degrees Background • Project Aim: Identify if students studying STEM subjects at Cardiff perceived or felt that upon completing their degrees they would have generic skills required for employment • Identified route to completion • • • • Develop an online survey to assess student expectations Obtain ethical approval Collect and analyse data Assess results in relation to what skills students feel they need to develop, and which they feel they are likely to develop. Methodology Methodology The six generic employability competencies were split into twelve questions by competency as shown below Cognitive Skills Generic Competencies Perssonal Capabilities Technical Ability Business and / or Organisation Awareness Practical and Professional Elements Methodology Questions based on Employer-defined Employability Competencies 1. 2. 3. 4. Ability to identify & solve problems Ability to work with information & handle a mass of diverse data Ability to assess risk & draw conclusions Have key transferable skills (e.g. ability to work with others in a team, communicate, persuade and have interpersonal sensitivity). 5. Ability & desire to learn for yourself & improve your self-awareness, emotional intelligence and performance 6. To be a self starter (use creativity, decisiveness, initiative) 7. To finish the job (show flexibility, adaptability, tolerance to stress) 8. Have sufficient knowledge & experience of working with relevant modern technology 9. Appreciate how businesses operate (appreciate organisational culture, policies & processes) 10. Critically evaluate the outcomes of professional practice 11. Reflect and review your own practice 12. Participate in and review quality control processes and risk management Methodology Options Considerations Selected Method Paper Survey Sufficient time Online Consistency/standard Non interrupting Interview Completed at all sites Anonymity Personal Response Unit Non personal data Online Results and Discussion Demographics of Response • The initial observation of the results clearly demonstrated a lack of response. • Over 380 (120 Pharmacy, 120 Engineering and 140 Earth) students were invited to participate with only 40 people completing the survey • Pharmacy response was lowest (right) • Higher response from male students (60 %) • Responses appear to be from school leavers with the majority of those responding being 18 or 19 (right) Reflections on poor response statistics • Response rates may have been improved by: • A shorter duration may have encouraged a quicker reaction and less forgetfulness • In addition to the online survey, provision of a paper version to circumvent need for computer/internet access • Made compulsory (ethics) • In class submission or promotion at large year 1 lectures Results and Discussion • Comparison of response to skill one, the ability to solve and identify problems 3% 25% 42% 55% 75% Importance by end of degree of achieving the ability to identify & solve problems Likelihood of achieving the ability to identify & solve problems Results and Discussion • Comparison of response to skill nine, an appreciation of how businesses operate 17.5% 2.5% 7.5% 12.5% 27.5% 37.5% 32.5% 37.5% 25% Importance by end of degree of achieving an appreciation of how businesses operate Likelihood of achieving the ability to appreciate how businesses operate Perceived Importance of Skills Generic Empl. Competencies Important Unsure Unimportant Cognitive Skills 94 6 0 Generic Competencies 95 2.5 2.5 Personal Capabilities 90 5 5 Technical Ability 92 8 0 Business/Organ. Awareness 45 38 17 Practical/Professional Elements 73 18 9 Likelihood of Attaining Skills Generic Empl. Competencies Likely Unsure Unlikely Cognitive Skills 84 13 3 Generic Competencies 95 5 0 Personal Capabilities 83 12 5 Technical Ability 65 30 5 Business/Organ. Awareness 45 25 30 Practical/Professional Elements 61 27 12 Follow-on Questions and Future Work Important Observations/Questions • 1. Students have not fully considered how their degree program will develop generic employability skills. • Q. Does this evolve as students progress through their degrees? • 2. 1st year (and prospective?) students don’t see the link between the skills they will develop and how they fit with generic skills that employers value. • Q. Would students respond differently to a survey which focused on more degree specific skills which ultimately map onto the generic employment competency of ‘Business/Organisational Awareness’ and ‘Practical and Professional Elements’? Results and Discussion • EXAMPLE OF SKILL SET MAP . . . Conclusions • Most respondents felt that they would acquire the generic employment competencies that they deemed to be most important • First year students do not seem to appreciate either the need to develop ‘Business/Organisational Awareness skills’ or do not understand what specific skills they will develop that map onto this generic heading • Does this change during course of study? • Would a survey based on subject-specific skills reveal a different pattern? • How can the development of employability skills be better communicated to prospective and 1st year students?