To What Extent Do Widening Participation Students Engage with Their Employability Skills Development? GSM Case Study


Research output: Contribution to conferenceOther (conference)peer-review


The debate regarding employability is of growing importance in the public and political domain (Tholen, 2014; Cullen & Thompson, 2015). In England, interest in the embedding of employability skills was encouraged by government funding in the 1990s, and this legacy lives on (Miller, et al., 2013; Moore, et al., 2013). Albeit the conceptualization of employability skills has changed over time (Miller, et al., 2013), soft employability skills can be defined as “transferable core skill groups that represent essential functional and enabling knowledge, skills, and attitudes required by the 21st century workplace” (Overtoom, 2000). Despite of ongoing debate about whether they can and should, most higher education institutions include the development of employability skills within their curricula. However Tymon (2013) claims that the views of undergraduates, the recipients of this employability development, are not well known. Haasler recommends a shift in attention for the concept and policies: initially seen as a way of improving the employability of widening participation groups and equipping them into highly skilled individuals for work (Miller, et al., 2013). Widening participation students are not a homogeneous group. They may have a range of identities, diverse social characteristics and come from a variety of backgrounds and according to a HEFCE report, students from non-traditional backgrounds are disadvantaged in the labour market and it has been questioned that whether the HE sector is perpetuating existing inequalities (HEFCE, 2013). The aims of this research paper is to raise a question as to whether widening participation students are engaged with their employability skills development at undergraduate level and secondly to evaluate the extent to which higher education succeeds in developing employability skills among widening participation student body at Greenwich School of Management. The study explores the views of approximately 300 undergraduate students from different academic levels as well as from different courses about their employability development throughout a semester. The data was collected through a survey and semi-structured interviews. Excel and SPSS were facilitated to analyse the data. Findings suggest that there is only limited alignment between the views of students and other stakeholder groups. There are differences between second and final year students, which could explain an observed lack of engagement with employability-related development. A significant challenge with this study was students’ ill-informed perception of their abilities and limited knowledge of the skills and level of skill required for graduate employment. Students come in thinking they know what is required because they are already working by ignoring the fact that many not in graduate employment. Finally some suggestions for improving engagement are made, alongside ideas on what can be done within higher education institutions to enhance employability skills development.


ConferenceThe Forum for Access and Continuing Education (FACE)
Abbreviated titleFACE
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • Widening Participation
  • Skills development
  • Student engagement


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