New skills framework for graduates to improve employability

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto

To help identify social, cognitive and emotional skills for students so that they can better prepare for their careers, Cambridge University Press and Cambridge Assessment have developed the Employability Skills Framework.

The framework is based on extensive research into employers’ needs and is aligned with the Cambridge Life Competencies Framework. By providing a map of the most important employability skills, the framework gives a deeper understanding of what each of the skills involves and helps educators to implement them in their teaching.

As COVID-19 restrictions ease in many parts of the world, there is a rapid resurgence in demand for Cambridge English Qualifications, with some countries already returning to pre-pandemic levels. There is also evidence that students are picking up their plans for international travel and Higher Education.

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Nevertheless, international Higher Education is facing unprecedented challenges in attracting students and giving them a positive experience. Students need to be confident that it is safe to travel, that they will benefit from the full student experience when they arrive, and above all that their investment of time and money will give them long-term benefits. 

Even before the COVID-19 crisis, a survey by the QS Intelligence Unit suggested that students see employment prospects as the most important benefit of attending an internationally-recognised university, far ahead of other benefits such as quality of education or the student experience.[1]

Employability is likely to be an even more important factor after the crisis, as students prepare for an increasingly competitive labour market. With graduate jobs in short supply, the insecurity of the ‘gig economy’ and the awareness that more and more professions will be affected by automation, prospective students need to know that their education will give them the skills they need for success.

Tomorrow’s skills

Educators often say that they are preparing students for careers that don’t yet exist, but it is clear that tomorrow’s professions will require a wide range of social, cognitive and emotional skills, which will be essential for success in any career. And the framework developed by Cambridge University Press and Cambridge Assessment is targeted at helping students to identify their skills.

These are just a few examples of the skills covered by the Framework:

Collaboration and teamworkCan candidates … manage collaborative tasks? Work well together in a group? Deliver group tasks effectively?

CommunicationCan candidates … present their views clearly and effectively? Adapt the way they communicate for different audiences and purposes? Understand others?

Innovation and problem solvingCan candidates … Elaborate and combine ideas? Develop alternative scenarios and proposals? Consider the perspectives of other stakeholders?

Critical thinking and decision-makingCan candidates … analyse information and arguments? Evaluate options to come to a decision? Evaluate the effectiveness of implemented solutions?

Leadership and global citizenshipCan candidates … generate support for action through effective communication strategies? Understand an organisation’s role in global issues such as the environment, inclusivity and equality?

Personal development and managementCan candidates … set goals for professional development? Take action to develop new skills and knowledge? Use feedback to improve performance?

Emotional intelligenceCan candidates … develop a positive attitude and work ethic? Establish and maintain positive relationships?

Digital literacyCan candidates … use digital and online tools? Follow safe online practices? Behave appropriately to others online?

English – the key to employability

It is striking that all of these ‘soft skills’ need sophisticated language and communication, and in most professions, much of this communication will be in English.

Quite simply, graduates who can communicate effectively in English will have a massive advantage in getting themselves on the career ladder, and this advantage will last throughout their careers.