Graduate employability – impressions from Australasia

Doug Cole, HEA Head of Global Employability and Enterprise
2 July 2017

Doug Cole, HEA Head of Global Employability and Enterprise, is on a whirlwind tour of Australia, meeting higher education colleagues and delivering sessions and workshops in Perth, Sydney, Adelaide, Tasmania and Melbourne.  Doug has just been to the 40th annual conference of the Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia (HERDSA) at the International Convention Centre, Darling Harbour, Sydney, where the theme for the conference was ‘Curriculum Transformation’.

Doug delivered a pre-conference workshop at this event with colleagues from both Australia and New Zealand on how the HEA embedding employability in higher education framework can be used as a flexible tool to support the work of all institutions in this space.

There was then an employability stream running throughout the conference itself with approximately twenty colleagues from institutions across Australasia and including many of the leading figures working in this space, where we all discussed some of the key challenges in the sector and considered potential future solutions, so it was a fantastic learning opportunity for all concerned.

The HEA communications team asked Doug to sum up his impressions of his trip to date in the context of graduate employability in just five points…Doug says, “There’s so much to learn and share,  five points can hardly do justice, but here goes”:

  • Despite there being thousands of miles between the UK and Australasia, it’s really striking how much we share a range of common challenges in the area of employability. That means there’s lots we can learn from each other.
  • I have been struck by the excellent work that is happening at a conceptual level to define employability here in Australia, this really matters because it is the starting point for any effective approach to employability. Agreeing what employability means from the outset between stakeholders in the context of the subject / discipline is stage one of our own embedding employability in Higher Education framework.
  • It is really important for senior leaders and policy makers in the sector to recognise that an effective institutional approach needs to stretch beyond the parameters of Work Integrated Learning (WIL) and that we need to be focusing on developing the whole person in preparation for life more broadly and future success whatever that looks like.
  • Employability goes far beyond the common misconception that it is centred around simply a list of 'skills' or a set of ‘graduate attributes’ and the single job that is measured by the Graduate Outcomes Survey data. It is really important that we work collaboratively to establish metrics that support this national data set but that measure a much wider range of areas, areas that are the essential foundations that underpin the established employment metrics.
  • There is a real exciting opportunity for colleagues working  in Australasia on employability to collaborate and work collectively to position the challenges and potential solutions across the entire sector and this is already happening in places. The HEA very much looks forward to contributing in this space.

Doug sums up: “Employability is a global challenge and we need to work together to engage national and institutional policy makers to ensure there is mutual understanding and subsequently the resources needed are made available to lead, support and make the changes that are needed happen.” 


You can find out more about the HEA’s approach to employability here:

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