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You are reading: 2019 EPHEA/NAEEA Conference Special Interest Group — Equity and Employability in Higher Education
Event information

In November 2019, Equity Practitioners in Higher Education Australasia (EPHEA) will be partnering with the National Association of Enabling Educators of Australia (NAEEA) to deliver a joint conference in Wollongong. As a component of the event, Professor Dawn Bennett (Curtin University) will lead a NCSEHE special interest group, Equity and Employability in Higher Education.

Workshop Overview

The development of employability is a shared concern for teachers, students and institutional leaders. This workshop will engage attendees in an approach with which employability can be embedded in the existing curriculum without any extra time, resources or expertise. The approach positions employability development as the cognitive and social development of students as capable and informed individuals, professionals and social citizens.

With a focus on ABILITY and equitable outcomes for all students, the workshop will first engage participants in a personalised self-assessment profile and the resources and strategies with which to embed employABILITY thinking. Participants will then work together to devise strategies for meeting the needs of specific equity cohorts. These will be trialled throughout 2020 with the intention of reporting back at the following EPHEA conference.

The workshop will suit equity practitioners, teachers, program leaders, curricular designers, senior managers and careers advisors. No prior expertise or experience of employability development or career development learning is required. For more information, please visit

About the EmployABILITY Initiative

The EmployABILITY Initiative is led from Curtin University by NCSEHE Fellow Professor Dawn Bennett. Over 30 institutions are involved globally and the resulting dataset promises to be the most comprehensive longitudinal dataset of students’ career thinking in the world. The ground-breaking approach to employability enables educators to embed employability thinking within the existing curriculum; enables students to shape their future work and career; and creates the datasets which will drive global research into students’ thinking about their studies and their future lives and careers.

Why is this important?

If graduates are to meet their full potential they need to have developed, as students, the ability to find, create and sustain meaningful work and learning across the career lifespan. This underpins the developmental role of higher education, which is to develop employABILITY thinking: students’ cognitive and social development as capable and informed individuals, professionals and social citizens. From 2019, Dawn will be working with equity practitioners to develop strategies which will meet the specific needs of different equity cohorts.

What is employABILITY thinking?

EmployABILITY thinking is a strengths-based, metacognitive approach to employability development delivered within the existing curriculum and without the need for additional time, expertise or resources. The approach prompts students to understand why they think the way they think, how to critique and learn the unfamiliar, and how their values, beliefs and assumptions can inform and be informed by their learning, lives and careers.

As suggested by its use of capitals, rather than focus on learners’ potential to be “employed” and directed by others, the approach focuses on learners’ ABILITY to create and sustain meaningful work. This is as relevant to workers in traditional, full-time employment with a single employer as it is to workers who combine multiple roles to create portfolios of work.

The approach provides free student resources, educator guides and a validated socio-cognitive measure known as Literacies for Life (L4L). An educator site features dedicated and plain language employABILITY thinking student resources, educator guides and expert guides. Educators can also request aggregated cohort-wide data and engage with the research. Activities, research and writing  from the initiative are regularly updated in the EmployABILITY research lab and in the LinkedIn Community of Practice.

Why is employABILITY thinking the solution?

Only when employability development and career guidance is aligned with disciplinary knowledge, skills and practices will it become core business. Employability is not yet at the core of our curriculum because it has been poorly defined as the acquisition of generic skills which are developed separately from the core business of learning a discipline. Properly defined, students are motivated to develop their employability because they are interested in developing their futures. In practical terms, this is achieved within the curriculum by helping students to find the relevance between the learning we assign them and their expectations for their future lives and work.

How does it work?

EmployABILITY thinking is embedded into the curriculum through the use of touchpoints: explicit links between learning and students’ futures. We embed one touchpoint into every unit. We then map existing career development activities and add these, and the touchpoints, to a visual map, creating a program-wide, integrated developmental program.

Data are generated through a formative, online self-assessment tool which encompasses the L4L measure. Students use the online tool to create personalised employability profiles, which they can review and revise at any time. The 29-page personalised profile report is a prompt for analysis and action rather than as a score card;  its 50 embedded resources enable students to be more agentic in their development. Most students engage with the tool as a required reading. They are directed to employABILITY resources at touchpoints such as before and/or after an industry placement; during a reflective task; when working in teams; or when giving and receiving feedback. The self-reflection tool, profile and resources form part of a Student Employability Starter Kit.

Special Interest Group date to be confirmed. More information about the EPHEA and NAEEA Conference is available here