Effective Communication Skills; the Missing Link in Enhancing Employability of STEM Graduates
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Effective Communication Skills; the Missing Link in Enhancing Employability of STEM Graduates. By Sindiso Zhou & Nhlanhla Landa.

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Effective Communication Skills; the Missing Link in Enhancing Employability of STEM Graduates

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Effective Communication Skills; the Missing Link in Enhancing Employability of STEM Graduates

By Sindiso Zhou & Nhlanhla Landa

2nd National Science and Mathematics Education Conference: Enhancing Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM); 20 – 22 August 2014, Bindura University of Science Education, Zimbabwe


PRESENTATION OUTLINE

  • Introduction and Background

  • Objectives

  • Definitions

  • Employability Framework

  • Conclusions and recommendations


Introduction and background

  • The single most critical problem facing STEM graduates in the world today is that of securing and retaining employment

  • Employability extends beyond securing a job, into performance and retention of that job (Knight and York, 2002)

  • Another problem is finding useful graduates who add value, develop and grow in STEM fields


Introduction cont...

  • STEM subjects are abstract by nature

  • Facilitation of transfer and implementation of scientific, technological, and mathematical knowledge in industry demands deliberate, rigorous and continuous practice in effective communication skills

  • Transferring course material (study) into personal and professional development of our students is vital yet problematic

  • Employability concerns itself with individuals’ ability to find, retain, and be successful in chosen employment (not directly taught in the curriculum)


OBJECTIVES

  • Define employability

  • Describe effective communication skills

  • Link employability (industry requirements) with effective communication skills

  • Outline job seeking and job retention skills


CRITICAL QUESTIONS

  • Is our curriculum responding to the job market?

  • If so, is this link between curriculum and career paths explicit to the learner?

  • Are our teaching methods moulding an employable individual?

  • When we release graduates into the labour market, are they career ready?

  • Do our students understand the value of Higher Education beyond immediate subject area?

  • Are learning outcomes explicitly linked to employability?


DEFINING EMPLOYABILITY

  • Soft/qualitative skills

  • Workforce/career readiness skills

  • Core skills necessary for success in the workplace

  • forces of attraction in industry (what makes you tick as an engineer, doctor, technician, computer programmer)


KEY SKILLS IN STEM CAREERS

There are three broad skills;

  • Applied knowledge

  • academic/course knowledge as applicable to real life situations

  • practical application of theory gained in HE

  • Effective Communication Skills

  • Effective Communication Skills such as proficiency in reading, writing, listening and speaking

  • Interpersonal interaction

  • Workplace skills

  • Critical Analysis and evaluation

  • Information Literacy and ICT knowledge


KEY COMMUNICATION SKILLS FOR STEM CAREERS

  • Cognitive skills

    Involve:

  • being able to identify, analyze and solve problems from a body of information and from organizational relationship trends

  • Being able to assess data and draw logical conclusions


KEY COMMUNICATION SKILLS FOR STEM CAREERS cont.

2. Communication and ICT;

Involve:

  • Teamwork

  • Conflict resolution

  • Interpersonal sensitivity

  • Information handling skills

  • Presentation skills

  • Self management

  • Time management


KEY COMMUNICATION SKILLS FOR STEM CAREERS cont.

3. Practical and professional skills – using experience to understand:

  • organizational culture,

  • organizational policies

  • organizational processes


EMPLOYABILITY FRAMEWORK

  • Enhancing employability involves developing skills through curriculum – revisiting the curriculum to link learning outcomes with employability.

    - Is attention necessarily drawn to the employability qualities that our courses develop?

  • Beyond that, employability also involves giving students a language to communicate effectively and successfully with their employers about their skills, knowledge and career potential.


EMPLOYABILITY FRAMEWORK cont.

  • While different STEM qualifications are the requirement to get a job, the workplace is a communication network in which;

    - there is less theory and more practice

    - abstract material should be concretized

    - there is interaction with real people and real problems

  • to survive the above, one needs effective communication skills to bridge the gap between theory and practice


JOB SEEKING EXPERTISE

  • Searching for vacancies online and offline

  • Completing application forms

  • drafting covering letters and Curriculum Vitae/Resume in response to vacancies

  • Preparing for interviews

  • Interview etiquette


JOB RETENTION SKILLS

To sustain employability (staying and succeeding in a job) involves more than being qualified – it involves several communication skills;

  • Presentation skills

  • Conflict resolution skills

  • Report writing skills

  • Persuasive engagement/Team work

  • Cultural consciousness/sensitivity

  • Time management and Self management

  • All the above constitute effective communication skills


CONCLUSIONS

  • Our curriculum, from secondary to tertiary education, is largely silent about employability issues, yet it should consciously integrate employability as a critical component so as to avoid unemployable graduates

  • Effective communication skills are taught in passing yet they should be a compulsory component from entry to exit point in teaching and learning institutions


RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Programme audit – to check;

    - What employability skills are developed through course material?

    - How are the learning outcomes of your programme linked to employability skills?

  • HEIs should come up with checklists for course development teams and programme committees to link learning objectives and outcomes with employability potential of graduates.

  • Communication skills courses should not be limited to basic communication but extend to include communication for specific occupational purposes.


THANK YOU

SIYABONGA

TATENDA


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