Researching skills development: students as partners in this process

Samantha Campbell Casey, Janis MacCallum, Lynn Robertson, Lewis Strachan


Many employers report that newly qualified graduates lack key skills necessary for success in the workplace. Although variable, many lack general ‘transferable’ or ‘soft’ skills including communication and teamworking. Staff at Edinburgh Napier University have sought to address this using the Skills Passport tool. The main element of the Skills Passport is the Skills Evidence Evaluation Record (SEER), which encourages students to document and reflect on their skills throughout their time at university in preparation for employment.

The purpose of this study was to explore students’ awareness of, and attitudes towards, their own skills development. Two final year students were recruited to the project and collected data from first to fourth year students via a questionnaire they designed to gather data about the Skills Passport and skills development as part of their final year project. In addition, an employer focus group and individual interviews gathered the thoughts of employers regarding graduates’ skills sets and the skills important to them as employers.

Students were aware that transferable skills are highly desirable, and that extracurricular activities are important; they become increasingly concerned about their skills development as they progress through their studies. These results suggest that students are aware of and are willing to invest extra time in their skills development, but that they require further support from the institution in order to be more confident about future employment prospects.


Employability skills; Flexibility; Reflective practice; Competency frameworks; Professional planning

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