Looking Beyond Employability

I found this tucked away near the end of an article in the Independent on Sunday:

“Students should learn not how to win arguments but how to ask subversive questions of authority, assess evidence and find the truth. They should discover how to critique the paradigms within which others expect us to live.”

That may sound trouble-making. Revolutionary, even. But that would be missing the point.

The important thing to think of here is ‘critical thinking’. About having access to and understanding of the tools that will enable you to do things. What you subsequently decide to do is then up to you.

photo by Dr.Fitz

“I’ve been looking everywhere to find employability skills…” (photo by Dr.Fitz)

So how can you be expected to ‘find the truth’? What if it’s not that simple?

Good questions. Things are never that simple. But neither question should stop you seeking out truth and question what is in front of you.

Critical thinking and employability skills bear many similarities. Engineering consultancy, Atkins, has called for universities to help students develop their employability skills:

“When considering whether to go to university, students would be wise to research where skills shortages lie in the marketplace and do a degree which is more likely to lead to a job offer.”

This view may help students and employers service needs right now, but it doesn’t cover possible future needs. Many jobs will be available in a decade or two that aren’t currently in existence. The skills shortage in that respect is a complete unknown.

To really achieve at employability, you need to look past employability in isolation. So how can you move forward without feeling completely in the dark?

A joint NUS and CBI guide to employability skills has been released to help with that. “Working Towards Your Future” is a short guide for students to get an idea of the general qualities employers are looking for in a graduate.

Aaron Porter, NUS president, said:

“A greater understanding of employability will enable today’s students to develop themselves, make a contribution and fulfil their potential tomorrow.”

You aren’t treading along an educational production line. You are participating in higher education. While you should expect your university to have the right types of access and tools in place for you to succeed, you should also feel a personal responsibility by acting with your own future in mind.

That doesn’t mean you’re only at university to enhance your career. Perhaps, like myself, you went into higher education because you wanted to find out more about a subject. An inquisitive mind is all it takes and you can be hooked.

Higher education can lead to a successful future and it can open many doors, but the fact it can lead to those things does not make it the reason behind higher education. Think of your life as a journey of lifelong learning and your skillset can be used beyond the ’employability’ tag.

Nevertheless, it would be daft to ignore students who attend university in the hope of brighter career prospects. Employability skills shouldn’t be an afterthought, but an integral part of your overall learning. By truly furthering your thoughts, considering other views, researching complex situations, opening up your mind, and imagining possibilities while you study, your employability should improve hugely. No matter how you define ’employability’.

While none of this happens automatically, university is one place where a lot of this is at hand to reach out and grab. So when something isn’t working out satisfactorily, or even if it’s just slightly out of your reach, don’t just sit back and grumble. Ask questions, assess evidence, and find the truth!