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What Does Employability Mean for the South African FET College Sector? Professor Simon McGrath
Historical Background Commonly seen as a new notion of the past 25 years (but cf. Beveridge 1909) 3 part story 1. Decline of manufacturing and rise of services 2. Rise of Neoliberalism and fall of the welfare state 3. Discourse of lifelong learning and the boundaryless career
Dominant Account of Employability Personalised account of employability as the individual’s ability to gain and maintain a job and to obtain a new one as circumstances dictate
Dominant Account of Educational Providers’ Role in Promoting Employability Educational providers must reshape their curriculum and pedagogy in order to focus more sharply on the knowledge, skills and attitudes that will promote their learners’ employability
New Context for Vocational Providers This reorientation has been taking place in the context of: the collapse of apprenticeship the rise of new, larger and more diverse student bodies a new governance model that stresses the centrality of business voices a new focus on performance and its management
The Deficit Model of Employability Employability has typically been about individual deficits, particularly in soft skills and attitudes A recent employer survey in England found that employers rated the following as the 5 greatest skills needs: literacy numeracy enthusiasm commitment timekeeping (Lanning, Martin, Villeneuve-Smith 2008)
Expanding the Notion of Employability Clearly, these are important However, it is important to ask further questions of employability What does employability amount to in a context of mass youth unemployment? How important are employability skills as opposed to other factors such as gender, race, poverty, caring responsibilities, transport availability/affordability?
Rethinking Education’s Role Educational accounts of employability have tended to focus too narrowly on the set of KSA to be imparted Need to think of this as one of 3 domains: Employability Skills Institutional Dimension Economic, Political, Cultural Context
Towards an Account of Colleges and Employability Difficult to “ringfence employability as a notion” Clearly linked to notions of quality
“Going Beyond” the amount of practical time required the funding norms the curriculum the FE boundary the walls of the institution the history of the institution
Other Potential Elements of Good Practice The “employable institution” Networks Selective niching Colleges as sites for trade testing Placing the right learner on the right programme Placement and tracking services
Major Challenges Tensions regarding work experience and training with production Trade identity, scarce skills and the relative importance of hard and soft skills Appropriate delivery of soft skills N for Nostalgia Measuring employability Limits to employer engagement The ambivalent role of the state