Teaching employability well is a bit like saying; eat a balanced diet, exercise and you'll be healthier. Most people who work in education entered the profession to enable learners to reach their potential; personally, socially and economically - but, like any healthy diet, sticking to this requires resilience, passion and a creative drive like no other.

In the education sector, teachers are squeezed between their accountability to those who govern and meeting the needs of those they teach. They play a daily balancing act of getting the right amount of verification without compromising the needs of their learners.  But, like every other curriculum area, employability teaching requires that balance of rich and diverse learner-led activities, lean assessment techniques, a commitment to British values, an unrelenting focus on the end career goal of learners and an uncompromising belief that every single learner’s ability needs to be extended beyond their current attainment.

Of course, the traits of a good teacher are well documented but the teaching of employability goes beyond these traits. Teaching employability well requires, above all else, an understanding of the personal and career development cycle of learners and the world of work in which we live. Teachers who get this right are often more successful in enabling their learners to make the successful transition from College into sustainable and progressive careers.

It would be fair to argue that in the past employability was viewed as an ‘add on’ and not always seen as ‘part of’ the programme of study. After all, teachers are experts in their own subjects and have little time to research the latest recruitment techniques, who is offering apprenticeship opportunities or what is on an employer's wish list for the ideal candidate.  However, since the introduction of Study Programmes and the new ‘personal development, behaviour and wellbeing’ Ofsted grade, under which employability well and truly sits, employability is acknowledged as a necessary and integral part of a learner's curriculum because, without it, how can learners progress into sustainable outcomes?

So what does good employability teaching look like? Well, first of all employability and subject-specific learning are complementary, not oppositional. They ought to contain a mix of learning designed to enable the learner to first understand themselves, then the world around them, then the skills and techniques that are relevant to progress onto their choices. For tutors to teach this well assumes a common value across the learning environment that all learners will progress. Successful tutors require a support infrastructure where a willingness to learn and develop is fostered at every level. Good employability tutors are often characterized by their ability to convert labour market intelligence into interesting materials that make maximum impact on learning and progression. They involve employers frequently in both their curriculum design and delivery. They know not only their learners career plans but also the potential barriers that might get in their way and how these can be overcome.

There are a number of practical things that can help ensure tutors teach employability well. Here are a few:

  • Provide teaching materials that are abreast of the changing world of work;
  • Provide regular CPD opportunities;
  • Provide an employer placement/work experience for tutors;
  • Involve employers in curriculum planning; and
  • Invite employers into delivery.

Tom Millar is Managing Director at The REED NCFE Partnership who provide employability solutions designed to support your delivery. For more information contact 0191 605 3300.

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