“Employability skills” - the contribution made by making activities


This paper draws on the findings of an on-going research project, funded by the Crafts Council ‘Learning through Making’ project and the Technology Enhancement Programme, into the competencies and capabilities which young people develop by being involved in making activities. Phase one was reported at IDATER 1997.1 The second phase of this research sought to establish the skills which employers look for when recruiting staff and compare these with the outcomes from phase 1. Employers’ views were elicited via a structured interview using a variety of techniques. Forty employers took part in the process with 21% coming from the manufacturing sector, 47% from the service sector and 17% from the public sector. Interviews were undertaken with senior staff with responsibility for staff recruitment, who at the time of the interviews were unaware of the focus of the research. Key quantitative data demonstrate the hierarchical manner in which employers view competencies and capabilities and as in phase 1 they are categorised into three discrete classes: practical competencies, cognitive abilities and personal attributes. Finally the paper compares the outcomes of phase 1 and phase 2 and demonstrates that the practical skills acquired via making activities in schools are highly valued by employers. Central to this research is the exploration of the extent to which young people develop generic “employability skills” by involvement in making activities. The first phase of this research established that teachers of making believe this to be the case and this conclusion was echoed by the Chief Executive of SCAA, Dr Nicholas Tate, who commented on: “... the skills for employability it (design and technology) promotes.” 2 In recognising the value of practical activity in developing these skills he also made the following observation: “At the moment it may be that design and technology is bearing too great a burden of responsibility for developing skills that need to be curriculum-wide and not the preserve of a single subject.” 3 A clear indication that the development of “employability skills” is now seen as an essential aspect of statutory education. This view supports the importance of this research in assisting those involved in making activities by demonstrating its value and how their contribution can be enhanced. The concept of “employability skills” is a relatively novel one which has emerged because of the increasing importance placed on vocational education, which is certainly not novel. As detailed by Wellington (1993), there are many instances since the late nineteenth century of governments taking specific actions to encourage education to meet better the needs of industry and commerce. However, since 1976 Government policy has been far more explicit in this regard, possibly because the needs of industry and commerce are changing ever more rapidly and global markets have heightened levels of competitiveness. Consequently, a number of government departments, in addition to the Department for Education and Science (DES) and the Department for Education and Employment (DfEE), have become increasingly interested in educational issues. In particular, the Department of Employment (DoE) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) broke

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@inproceedings{Tufnell2002EmployabilityS, title={“Employability skills” - the contribution made by making activities}, author={Richard Tufnell and John W. Cave and John J. Neale}, year={2002} }