Art & Design Employability



Student engagement

Contextual Statement

In art and design subjects, in which the intention of the tutor is to enable students to become practising artists or designers, employability skills might completely permeate the curriculum. Such subjects maintain a close link to the creative world beyond the university. There is an emphasis on engaging with live projects and experiencing interaction with successful practitioners and with the students’ own tutors’ creative practices. Through this, students gain an understanding of the ways in which professionals can work effectively within their discipline. However, in order to fully benefit from these learning opportunities, students need to engage with the idea of employability and what this means for them. As we have seen, students are frequently unaware of the skills they develop both inside and outside the curriculum, and they fail to articulate these in relation to wider contexts

Knight and Yorke (2004) propose a model for employability based on the acronym USEM:

U understanding of subject discipline and broader situations
S skilful practices in subject, employment and life
E efficacy beliefs and personal qualities
M metacognition

Elsewhere in this resource, we explore self-efficacy and subject-related activities and skilful practices. This section, covering student engagement, is concerned with the metacognition of employability – that is, students being conscious of what they are learning in relation to problem solving, managing tasks, strategies for approaching situations, learning, team working and self-management. Through engaging in debate and discussion, students become more aware of, and able to name, skills and see the relevance of their learning experiences to the world of work.

Strategies used in teaching employability skills and attributes may be explicit – for example, CV writing workshops – but they may be deeply embedded, such as within live projects. Students report that it is the latter instances that are most meaningful, as they are likely to have greater relevance, be more stimulating and relate more closely to their interests in the creative arts. ‘Maximising discipline relevance is powerful,’ (Kneale 2009 p. 102), when developing employability skills. However, embedded skills require teasing out and bringing to conscious awareness so that students are able to see their relevance to future employment. The examples illustrated throughout this resource show the relevance of different kinds of learning activity to employability. Specific activities which helped students to engage with notions of employability as part of this project are documented in the project Facebook page. The student-led Pecha Kucha sessions , workshops led jointly between BNU and GSA and visits to each other’s institution, enabled productive discussion and reflection on project activities.

Without active engagement with the idea of employability, students may remain less aware of their abilities and the transferability of their skills. Understanding and being able to articulate increased knowledge of organisational ability and team working, for example, are central to a range of potential employment opportunities. At the same time, knowing how artists and designers continue to practise is essential in opening up images and ‘ways of being’ appropriate to creative careers. Engaging in the idea of employability within their subject discipline is an important part of students’ higher education experience.

Exploratory Tool

Video Workshop

Mini Pecha Kucha

What does success in your discipline look like?

Mini Pecha Kucha – ‘My Graduate Survival Kit’

References and further reading

Pauline Kneale, ‘Teaching and Learning for Employability’, in Fry, Ketteridge and Marshall (eds.), A Handbook for Teaching and Learning (London and New York: Routledge, 2009), pp. 99–112.

Peter Knight and Mantz Yorke, Learning, Curriculum and Employability in Higher Education (London: Routledge Falmer, 2004).

Mantz Yorke, Employability and Good Learning, Keynote address to the 9th Pacific Rim Conference, 2006. Available from last accessed 10th July 2014.