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Employability – what’s it all about?

It may feel like the term ‘employability’ is everywhere these days, and that the need to enhance and develop employability is now interwoven into most (if not all) university strategic plans and goals. The questions for many, however, are still, ‘what exactly is employability?’, ‘why is it important?’, and ‘what should I do about it?’ Our blogs, over the coming period, will hopefully explain, inform and inspire you to tackle these questions!

We’re going to start with that first, fundamental question, ‘what exactly is employability?’ A common misconception is that employability is just another word for employment. The definition of employability that we use here at Stirling, and the one that is accepted most widely across the sector, is that it is a  “a set of achievements, understandings and personal attributes that make individuals more likely to gain employment and be successful in their chosen careers, which benefit themselves, the workforce, the community and the economy.” (Yorke, LTSN Generic Centre et al. 2004).   So simply put employability is about the assets, attributes and achievements that make individuals more likely to gain employment, find success, and to be able to move between jobs and remain employable throughout their working life.

How students gain these assets, attributes and achievements whilst at university, and what impact this has on their experience and success is something that potential applicants, current students and external bodies from government to the media are increasingly focusing on. So, if we start to break it down into its component parts, what does employability development at university look like, and what needs to be in place across the institution, both within and outside the curriculum, to enable students to fully develop their employability? For us at Stirling there are six key components, as the diagram below shows:


Pam Crawford, and Lesley Grayburn, via the Employability Hub, are going to be working with colleagues across the institution to look at how the institution can continue to share and build on the good practice that already exists at Stirling around these six key components.

In the coming blogs we will be looking at each of the components – what are they are all about, why are they important and what you can do about them.

If you want to read more there is a great introduction to employability written for academic staff called Employability in higher education: what it is – what it is not (M. Yorke, HE Academy/ESECT, Learning & Employability Series).