Saturday, June 12, 2010
The word ‘employability’ has been widely used in academia since the publication of the Dearing Report in the UK in 1997. Prior to the Dearing Report a number of terms and phrases were (and still are) used to describe the qualities to which both ‘employability skills’ and ‘soft skills’ has commonly become an umbrella term for. These include: key skills; transferable skills; personal skills; interpersonal skills; and more recently entrepreneurial skills. Hind and Moss (2005) identify ‘employability skills’ as being a collective term for all of the above. However, Yorke (2006, p.1) identifies that employability in higher education (HE) is about much more than skills alone, stating that employability is a ‘set of achievements which constitute a necessary but not sufficient condition for the gaining of employment…and is strongly aligned with the academic valuing of good learning’.
It is a personal observation from working with partner institutions in Europe and Africa that ‘employability’ as an academic term and concept has taken time to filter beyond UK shores into higher education institutions (HEIs) and is still often unheard of. Even the recognition of the need for non-subject specific soft skills development is seemingly not globally prevalent amongst HE providers (Andrews and Higson, 2008), despite the fact that industry is continuously seeking improved soft skills from graduates (Doctorjob, 2002; BBC, 2006; BBC, 2008). The manner by which soft skills are taught and assessed varies greatly from one institution to another. Institutions that teach Entertainment Management courses need graduates with a range of highly developed soft skills, particularly when dealing with customers in the service sector, where the face of an employee may be regarded as the face of the company (Denny, 2009).
Entertainment Management at HE level is a specialist course in business and management that contextualises content to the entertainment industry, and is designed to develop learners into becoming future managers. Entertainment management courses generally blend three learning strands:
· pure business disciplines such as marketing, finance and human resources;
· specialist industry knowledge relating to the vast entertainment industry and its eighteen unique sectors that deliver entertainment to audiences predominantly in three ways - via the media, within visitor attractions, and at live events (Moss, 2009);
· and employability skills development including: the development of academic disciplines such as essay writing and presentation technique; personal and interpersonal skills including communication skills; group working ability; selling and negotiation skills; entrepreneurship and career development skills.
At Leeds Metropolitan University (LMU) all undergraduate Entertainment Management students start developing their portfolio of employability skills at the beginning of the course. A first year module has been developed – ‘Employability & Management Skills’ (EMS) to initiate this process. EMS includes a variety of assessment, learning and teaching strategies to facilitate the students’ skills development. Micro-teaching is a key component of the learning strategies used with work related management scenarios providing the focus for a theatre role play exercise. Peer assessment is used in a creative way to provide rapid and immediate feedback to the students on the development of their skills. This lays the foundation for further development of employability skills beyond level one where they are integrated and embedded into the students’ curriculum in module learning outcomes that are tested through assessment at all levels of the course.
A number of other teaching and learning strategies in relation to employability and soft skills development are deployed within the entertainment management curriculum at LMU. These are briefly summarised below:
· specific ‘management’ modules where students learn effective management techniques for the industry;
· specific modules relating to entrepreneurship and creativity, including ‘An Introduction to Enterprise and Small Business’ and ‘Entrepreneurship in the Creative and Cultural Industries’;
· work placements in the first and second year of 80 hours each, during which students must complete key skills audits and self development reflective portfolios;
· optional practical work experience in year three on a 48 week industrial placement;
· in the final year, students work as entertainment industry management consultants to solve work-related problems that are set by real entertainment organisations in the module ‘Entertainment Consultancy Project’;
· students complete progress files and develop personal development plans to support their learning and skills development at each level of their course;
· and through the provision of extensive online resources, including ‘Skills for Learning’, which is a website dedicated to employability and soft skills development, as well as extensive facilities provided within ‘X-Stream’ the university’s virtual learning environment (Hind, Moss and McKellen, 2006).
The approach to skills development at LMU strongly embraces the pedagogy behind employability, as identified by Yorke (2006) in terms of ‘good learning’ and student achievement that takes place outside of the traditional classroom setting, particularly with the involvement of external partners through placements and the all-important exposure to ‘real’ people in industry.
The true added value of entertainment management education will need ‘to be drawn from a shift towards skill provision, as pure technical knowledge expires fast and is more easily accessible than ever before from the internet’ (Rundshagen, 2010). The entertainment industry is a skills-hungry service industry, and those within entertainment education must meet the skills demand of the labour market. Ultimately for providers of entertainment management education, the success of their graduates in securing and maintaining employment will be the real test of this.
Andrews, J. and Higson, H. (2008) Graduate employability, ‘soft skills’ versus ‘hard’ business knowledge: A European study. Higher Education in Europe. Vol. 33, Issue 4, December 2008, pp. 411 – 422.
British Broadcasting Corporation. (2006) Graduate demand outstrips skills. [Internet] London, BBC. URL available from
Accessed 1st November, 2006.
British Broadcasting Corporation. (2008) Graduate literacy 'worries firms'. [Internet] London, BBC. URL available from < http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/7494172.stm> Accessed 1st June, 2010.
Denny, R. (2009) Motivate to win. 3rd ed. London, Kogan Page.
Doctorjob. (2002) Ill Communication. Doctorjob. Summer 2002, p.4.
Hind, D. and Moss, S. (2005) Employability skills. Sunderland, Business Education Publishers.
Hind, D., Moss, S. and McKellen, S. (2006) Innovative Assessment Strategies for Developing Employability Skills into the Tourism and Entertainment Management Curriculum at Leeds Metropolitan University. The 20th Businet Annual Conference. Berlin, November 2006.
Moss, S. (ed.) (2009) The entertainment industry: an introduction. Wallingford, CABI.
Rundshagen, V. (V.Rundshagen@ews-koeln.de), 26th March 2010. AW: Employability survey. Email to S. Moss (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Yorke, M. (2006) Learning and employability, series one: employability in higher education: what it is – what it is not. York, Higher Education Academy.