Embedding employability with a Careers in Economics module

Dr Eghosa Igudia, University of Northampton
Written for the Employability Skills Research Project, June 2019

Embedding Employability Skills

Skills listed below are built into the Economics programme at the University of Northampton. We employ real world examples and case studies to teach students, and their assessments are often based on how they would employ relevant theories and data to solve real world problems. Economics students at our university are taught quantitative skills and the use of various software (Excel, SPSS, EViews and Stata) for analysis. Testing these skills often involve students collecting data, analysing them, carrying out relevant diagnostics, and taking decisions based on their findings. Our students are taught teamworking, communication and presentation skills. These are assessed through their weekly participation in seminar activities and through formative group presentations/assessments. Our students are taught creative and imaginative skills through our pluralistic approach to teaching. These cut across all levels of study, from their first to final year.

Further, we take our students on study trips to relevant organisations. This gives them the opportunity to interact with practitioners and learn about skills relevant in the work place. For example, we have an arrangement with the office of national statistics (ONS), where our students are hosted yearly and are taught what it takes to work at the ONS. At the end of their second year, our students are offered the choice of taking out a year for a fulltime work-placement. This gives them the opportunity to interact with practitioners and learn on the job.

A Careers in Economics module

We have introduced a Careers in Economics module which provides the opportunity for our students to learn skills relevant to economics-related jobs and to interact with practitioners both on campus and during various study trips. The module was introduced two years ago, with the first cohort about to round off. In its first year, we have invited practitioners/external guests (including alumni) to talk to our students about the jobs they do, how they secured the job (starting from job-hunt to assessment and interview stages), and the skills required to excel in the jobs.

In another aspect of the Careers in Economics module, students identify at least three advertised economics jobs. They analyse the jobs and person specification. They then appraise themselves relative to the skills required to take-up the jobs, and comment on how they intend to close the skills-gap (if any) they have identified. This is intended to develop their independence, commercial awareness and resilience. It is also aimed at ensuring that students identify all skills relevant to jobs in their area of study, and ensure they would have acquired those skills by the time they graduate from the university. We offer personal support to ensure that identified gaps are closed.

The module also requires students to visit local firms to find out if the later has economic units, the kind of jobs undertaken, and what is required to take up those jobs.

Finally, we believe that not all students will want to take up a job, but some may want to set up their own business. The Careers in Economics module also accommodates students in this category. Thus the module involves students identifying business opportunities and coming up with a plan on how to develop the identified business idea. We facilitate this aspect of the module in collaboration with the university’s work-based learning team.

Skills developed by this activity

Skill/capability

 

Communication

 

Writing for academic audience

Writing for non-academic audience

Presentation to academic audience

Presentation to non-academic audience

Application to real world

 

Applying economics to real world context

Solving policy or commercial problems

Simplifying complex ideas/information to make them accessible to wide audience

Data analysis

 

Sourcing and organising quantitative data

Analysing and interpreting quantitative data

Fluency with excel

Fluency with statistical/econometric packages

Collaboration

 

Team-working with economists

Collaboration with non-economists

Wider employability skills

 

Flexibility

Creativity and imagination

Independent thinking

Can do attitude

Reliability

Resilience

Commercial awareness

Time management

Project management/organisational skills

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