Curriculum and assessment design


Within Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), there is cross cultural evidence of gaps in transferrable skills between new graduates’ capabilities and employers’ expectations. These gaps hinder graduates’ ability to obtain employment. Herein we report the impact of an evidence-based approach to closing skills gaps in senior STEM students based on their self-perceived employability. A capstone-style, for-credit elective module was developed for STEM students based on the skills gaps found in prior research. The impact of this intervention was measured utilising a mixed-method design. Students’ self-perceived employability pre- and post- module completion were measured, along with post-module reflections collected via a series of open-ended questions. Overall, the module had a positive impact on student self-perceived employability, with the greatest impact in the areas of ‘awareness of opportunity’, ‘perceptions of future success’, and ‘confidence in skills’. A post hoc analysis indicated significant increases in post-module completion ‘confidence in skills’ for women, an important insight given the gender-based issues in career progress and retention in STEM. The qualitative analysis suggested that students highly valued the opportunity to develop job application and transferable skills. The results are discussed in the light of the importance of evidence-based, curriculum-embedded interventions in guiding students to employment.

Practitioner Notes

  1. Employer dissatisfaction with new graduates has been reported across multiple fields and studies in STEM, which has led to the discovery of skills gaps between graduate ability and desired employability skills.
  2. There is a high demand for skilled STEM graduates, but low employer dissatisfaction and graduates report missing transferrable skills when they enter the workforce. This suggests that students need to further develop relevant transferable skills throughout their degree before they attempt to enter the workforce.
  3. The curriculum for the described career development module was evidence-based and developed using the skills gaps found in prior research.
  4. Students reported that the career development module built awareness around their transferable skills and enabled them to gain a stronger sense of self perceived employability.
  5. The evidence-based approach to employability curricula has informed, prepared, and therefore likely empowered students to navigate an uncertain workforce.

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