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What is employability and why is it important?

In this article, Helen Kempster discusses what employability means and why it is important to consider. Let's explore.
© Goldsmiths, University of London

Employability is a word that can be used in different contexts and with different meanings.

What is employability?

In this article, we are discussing employability as it relates to higher education, so we will use the following definition. Employability is:

“a set of achievements – skills, understandings and personal attributes – that makes graduates more likely to gain employment and be successful in their chosen occupations, which benefits themselves, the workforce, the community and the economy.”

Yorke, M. (2004), Employability in higher education: what it is – what it is not, The Higher Education Academy/ESECT

Employability, therefore, is not just about getting a job, it is about a broader set of skills and attributes that will enable a graduate to be successful throughout their working life.

So, why does this matter to you, as a current or future student in higher education?

Remaining competitive

Studying at university can give you an advantage in your future career. For a start, you’ll be able to apply to jobs that specify that you must be a graduate, and the subject you studied or the grade you achieved may be relevant to some employers.

However, even if you have a first-class degree and a relevant subject for the career you want, you will most likely be competing against others who have the same or similar academic qualifications. Therefore, it’s your employability, the unique mix of skills, abilities and personal qualities that you have, that will make you stand out from the crowd.

Achieving your goals

The world of work changes very rapidly. Your career is likely to involve many different job roles and employers, and even if you stay in the same job it is likely to change its nature over time.

Therefore, employability skills are useful as they are transferable; you can adapt them to whichever situation you find yourself in.

Enhancing your education

Learning through a variety of different methods (eg through your academic studies, through work experience and through volunteering) gives you a well-rounded education.

Engaging in the student experience

If you make an effort to participate in the whole student experience, you will get more from your time at university. This includes engaging in your academic studies, extra-curricular and co-curricular activities, volunteering and work experience.

Employability is not something that can be easily ignored. Thinking about your employability from an early stage is likely to increase the chance that you will be successful in your chosen career.

If you’d like to learn more about preparing for success at university, check out the full online course from Goldsmiths University, below.

© Goldsmiths, University of London
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