Student perceptions of generic employment skills across Science

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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?
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