EP 3: The importance of transferable skills and employability specific skills training in Higher Education (HE) to improve student employability in the post-pandemic job market

Dr. Sofia Barbosa Bouças

In this episode, Dr Sofia Barbosa Bouças speaks about the experiences of Higher Education (HE) professionals and academics during the 2020-21 pandemic and the sudden and giant shifts they had to take to continue teaching and supporting students. She speaks about how valuable technological provisions have been to ride the wave of uncertainty but also stresses that there continues to be a need for physical interactions between students and academics. This episode highlights the importance and immediate need of embedding transferable skills into the curriculum to improve students’ employability today and in the post-pandemic era. Finally, the episode ends with a deep look into the future of employability in a post-pandemic job market for HE students. Sofia is an academic and educationist who is currently the Undergraduate Programmes Lead in the Division of Psychology and a Senior Lecturer at Brunel University London. She is also a fellow and steering committee member of the Brunel Academy for Transformation of Teaching and a pioneer in developing methods to incorporate transferable skills and employability skills into traditional HE curriculum. Previously Sofia has worked at the University of Reading, Oxford Brookes University, and the University of Southampton.

“My main concern is that we should always bear in mind who we have as our students, their background, where they come from and that one thing does not fit all….” – Dr Sofia Barbosa Bouças

“There is room for us. There needs to be interaction with our students despite currently providing all teaching digitally.” – Dr Sofia Barbosa Bouças

“Today we are training students in UN camps in Iraq and Foundation run schools in Lebanon, and what we have found is that for them pre-recorded video lessons don’t work and digital interaction with trainers is key.” – Dev Aditya

 In this podcast you will listen about:

  • Get to know Sofia and an initial chat about Sofia’s personal experience during the pandemic.
  • Sofia speaks about her experience of managing a very large cohort of students, who were about to end an academic year normally as any other academic year, but were suddenly put in a state of absolute uncertainty weeks before their exams and assessments.
  • The steps she and her colleagues took to reassure students at that time, set up processes for the months ahead, adapting a teaching plan at scale, and how working remotely actually resulted in more work than before.
  • Exploring platforms, technological and procedural solutions to meet this uncertainty and bring innovative methods of teaching delivery.
  • Unique initiatives like narrowing the awarding gaps and maintaining such policies despite the sudden changes brought by the pandemic.
  • New market trends like companies working with big universities to even start completely digital online degrees.
  • Despite the heightened use of technology and its uses, there is still room for coexistence of more traditional methods of teaching, especially for specialist subjects.
  • Pre-recorded video lessons and content alone cannot satisfy teaching and learning needs.
  • Skills need to be taught for students when they enter Higher Education, especially for global/international students, and similarly each year of study you need to be taught different skills to match the needs of that level of HE.
  • Academic skills need to include transferable skills that graduate employers are looking for and these are different from purely academic learning.
  • Most students may not get into employment directly linked to their core academic degrees and hence even assessments need to prepare students for graduate world expectations.
  • Transferable skills and employability specific skills training need to be tailored according to student needs based on their backgrounds, needs and all the industries they might work in.
  • Such skills can be embedded as a blanket system across HE institutes, and the core focus should be on the students in each institute and what specific skills the industry wants at that time and in the years immediately ahead of the students graduating.
  • Everything is continuously changing in the market but transferable skills like leadership, problem solving, communication are what helps students fit into the ever-changing jobs market.
  • The  future is going to go quicker and quicker towards being more digital and students need to develop skills to adapt to these changes.

‘ProjectOI Podcast’ is registered under Otermans Institute and encourages credible discussions on the future of education, training, and human ability. The views presented by guests are their own and do not represent the views of the registered organisation or its members. New episodes are out on www.oiedu.co.uk and other streaming channels every fortnight.