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A qualitative exploration examining the enhancement of students? personal and professional development through an employability focused curriculum

Bradford, J (2013) A qualitative exploration examining the enhancement of students? personal and professional development through an employability focused curriculum. Doctoral thesis, Liverpool John Moores University.

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A strong higher education (HE) system plays an important role in a successful nation's economy and society (Browne 2010). The Leitch Report (2006) emphasised the role of HE in developing the world class skills required to achieve prosperity in an increasingly competitive and rapidly evolving global economy. However, literature suggests that HE institutions (HEIs) are not sufficiently preparing their students for the world of work, and that more needs to be done to better equip students for the requirements of employment (Adecco Group 2012, Blair 2006, Gillinson and O'Leary 2006, Nguyen et al. 2005, The Institute of Directors (loD) 2007). Despite the requirements of the government and employers regarding graduate employability being well documented, the perceived needs of students and graduates are less well researched (Bamett 2007, Crebert et al. 2004, Mason et al. 2003, Sleap and Reed 2006, Yorke 2006). The HE employability agenda should understand students' perceptions of their HE experience to better design programmes that adequately prepare them for the requirements of the labour market (Burgess 2007, Denholm 2011, Kay et al. 2007, Nguyen et al. 2005, UKCES 2009). Utilising the perceptions of HE students and graduates, this research programme aimed to identify what more can be done to prepare students for the world of work and diminish the apparent skills gap that exists between HE graduates and the world of work requirements. To do justice to the complexity of these issues an in-depth qualitative research approach was utilised (Johnston 2003, Tod et al. 2007). The research programme broadly consisted of three phases: 1. Phase 1 involved interviewing 17 Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) School of Sport & Exercise Sciences (SSES) alumni about their attitudes regarding the purpose of HE, the impact their HE experience had in preparing them for the requirements of the world of work, and what more can be done to, prepare students for their post HE lives. 2. Phase 2 utilised an ethnographic research approach and was conducted in two parts. Part 1 involved participant observation within the SSES student learning and teaching (L&T) environment and culture, and aimed to determine what the SSES curriculum provides in preparing students for the post HE world. Part 2 involved conducting focus groups with final year SSES undergraduate students regarding their experiences and perceptions of the employability focused L&T opportunities provided. 3. Phase three involved interviewing 11 SSES graduates at the end of their undergraduate university experience about their attitudes regarding the purpose of HE, and their evaluative perceptions of the SSES course from the perspective of L&T and post HE preparation. Phase 2 found that the SSES had responded to the demand of the competitive graduate job market and developed a three stage employability model that involved opportunities to prepare students for post HE. This included personal development planning (PDP), careers sessions, guest speakers, a placement and reflective practice. The SSES were perceived to be proactive in providing opportunities, advice and encouragement to help students develop personally and professionally. However, the research also demonstrated that students are not engaging sufficiently with these aspects of the curriculum. Yorke (2006) notes that the provision of opportunities to develop employment prerequisites does not guarantee that such development occurs, and that it cannot be assumed that students are employable on the basis of curricular provision alone. Students' lack of engagement was explored through phases 1, 2 and 3 by gaining a better understanding of students' attitudes to L&T within their university culture. This understanding and the subsequent recommendations can be utilised to diminish the dissonance between SSES provision and students' engagement, and determine how the SSES can promote effective learning and post HE preparation within the SSES curriculum. Phase 1 and 3 of this research programme demonstrated that students generally envisage that HE will develop them personally and result in them feeling more prepared for their lives post HE. Since students are orientated to pursue their degrees and post HE preparations in different ways, HEIs need to ensure that they understand and meet the aspirations and needs of the broader student population (Barrie 2007, O'Regan 2009). Understanding the individual needs of students and providing them with the post HE nurturing and support they require will result in them being better prepared to meet the requirements of the working world, which will in turn lead to a more skilled workforce that can enhance the economy and society (Barrie 2007, Brennaner al. 2005, Martin et al. 2000, Minten 2010, O'Regan 2009). Critically, such student support needs to be orientated around an enhanced student awareness of the relevance and value of what they are learning and how it relates to the post HE world. Specifically, students need to be engaged with an effective support network that is grounded in the competitive reality of the world of work, the reality and outcome of their degree, the world of work requirements, and the importance of engaging in curriculum interventions that prepare students for the world of work. Alongside enhancing awareness, students need to be supported and guided through the process of determining and appropriately preparing for their individual post HE aspirations. This process should involve gaining an awareness of the wide range of post HE opportunities that are available, consideration of how these options fit students' individual needs, and gaining some experience of those opportunities. To better prepare students for post HE and diminish the gap that exists between the skills graduates gain from the curriculum and the requirements of the world of work, there needs to be a closer fit between the two. In essence, the world of work realities and requirements need to feature more centrally within HE L&T culture and content to enhance the employability relevance and value students attach to their degree programme.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GV Recreation Leisure > GV561 Sports
Divisions: Sport & Exercise Sciences
Date Deposited: 04 Apr 2017 09:45
Last Modified: 03 Sep 2021 23:31
DOI or ID number: 10.24377/LJMU.t.00006182
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/6182
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