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NICEC Seminar, November 2009

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1 NICEC Seminar, November 2009
Higher education engagement with employers: What works in practice? Helen Connor and Wendy Hirsh NICEC Seminar, November 2009 Research team: Richard Bolden, Helen Connor, Anthea Duquemin, Wendy Hirsh, Georgy Petrov

2 Policy over the last decade….
Employability and Enterprise Widening participation Foundation degrees Lifelong Learning Networks Lambert and Leitch Reviews HEFCE Employer Engagement - workforce development, co-funding (ASNs), regional Higher Skills Pathfinders EQL HECIF Other – eg SSCs, RDAs, KTPd, NSAs, etc

3 Study of specific examples of employer-HE involvement
27 examples examined Interviews of those involved, often at both HE & employer ends of the relationship CIHE examples mostly found through employer contacts – national spread, very varied types of involvement Higher Skills cases – South West & via Higher Skills project – regional, focus more on FDs and WFD Higher Skills – creative/ cultural; engineering, business improvement (leadership and management) CIHE – construction & engineering; financial/business services; IT; creative/media More recently 10 case studies of institutional strategy

4 Diverse examples of engagement
Foundation degree for an IT employer, individuals recruited specially, two years part-time study, HEI local to workplace Using existing Masters degrees in IT for employees with campus-based work location rented by company Small design firm working with local college via validation board Long term strategic partnership in aerospace Civil engineering industry-led work experience for u/g’s

5 Examples contd Modules for specialist financial professionals delivered across faculties, later accredited Improving written English of engineers in workplace Range of foundation degrees for transport employer with four HEIs Training courses for public service staff in Islamic culture Distance learning on business enterprise for small businesses in tourist area

6 Types of engagement influencing teaching & learning
Workforce development for people already in employment, including both ‘reskilling’ and ‘upskilling’ Standard or bespoke courses Existing or development of new programmes (eg FDs) Accredited or not At very wide range of levels of expertise Accrediting existing workforce development Employers supporting student ‘employability’ Direct inputs to teaching or materials Careers work, often linked with recruitment activity Work experiences/ work placements Involvement of employers in curriculum development, often linked with wider engagement eg via research

7 Who works with whom? Mapping the links
Other organisations 1 2+ HE Institutions 1. Direct Single HEI - Single employer 2. HE Network/ Partnership Two or more HEIs - Single employer 4. HE-Employer Consortium Two or more HEIs – Two or more employers 3. Employer Group Single HEI – Two or more employers Employers 5. Sub-contracted Provider network managed through lead HEI 6. Mediated Relationships established and/or maintained by intermediary/broker

8 What helps or hinders effective engagement?
7. Funding 4. Developing, sustaining & leading the partnership 3. Learning package 1. Strategic fit 6. Culture & systems 5. Staffing 2. Finding partners Defining and focussing engagement Supporting engagement

9 Facilitators and barriers to effective HE-employer engagement
Defining… 2. Finding partners and establishing the relationship a) Clarity of contact points in HEI b) Driving interest for the engagement c) Joint exploration of what is needed d) Building trust e) Partnerships must be manageable 1. Strategic fit for the HEI and its partners a) Alignment with institutional strengths and strategic direction b) A fit in terms of values, ethos and ways or working c) A real business need d) HE best placed as the learning provider e) Benefits which the intended learners will easily recognise 3. Designing and delivering an appropriate learning package Supporting… 7. Funding and investment a) Recognising the real cost of employer engagement b) Public funding for development c) Assessing sustainability and financial risk a) Creative adaptation of existing HE offerings b) Employers can offer complementary learning experiences c) Effective development of new or bespoke courses d) Accreditation where appropriate e) A learning design suitable for the target group of learners Facilitators and barriers to effective HE-employer engagement 6. Culture and systems supportive of collaboration a) Flexible approach to purpose of HE b) Bridging cultures c) Time and incentives for engagement built into academic role d) Financial and administrative flexibility 4. Developing, sustaining and leading the partnership a) An academic with passion for the work b) Collaborative approach c) Role clarity d) Ensure buy-in e) Build in continuity f) Support at senior levels g) Need for ongoing leadership h) Recognise complex leadership needs 5. Staff resourcing and capability a) Subject knowledge b) Teaching delivery expertise c) Customer focus and service orientation d) Resourcing employer engagement in HE Sustaining…

10 Framing employer engagement as part of institutional strategy
Institutions on their own evolving journeys Employer engagement part of core teaching and research missions not ‘third leg’ Needs to meet real needs of both employers & learners: Not ‘selling’ what HEIs think employers should buy Varied views on desired volume of WFD & importance/ attraction of accrediting workplace learning as distinctive HE offer Capacity and interest to work with employers? How big a culture shift in HE? Existing staff or new resources, including partners? Enabling infrastructure eg marketing, data & finance systems Does the finance of WFD or new programmes make sense? Especially once the pump-priming has gone.

11 Implications for careers work in HE
Centrality of employability skills (teamwork, communication etc.) and increasing commitment to work experience Articulation of career skills less clear, as is method of delivery of career learning In some HEIs much increased general contact with employers Engagement activity often devolved but with central facilitation Careers services can be central to this and be one key gateway for employers to enter institution for work placements, teaching input, recruitment or even research collaboration Other careers services can become marginalised by business development/ enterprise/CPD units as main door for employers Broader skill set for careers people in HE, especially in promoting all aspects of the institution to employers and in complex partnership ventures eg with private sector training providers Who gives careers advice to employees coming into HE?

12 Reports Influence through Collaboration project at CIHE
Influence through Collaboration – Main report, Summary report and case study library. Helen Connor and Wendy Hirsh, CIHE Higher skills project at HERDA South West Employer Engagement with Higher Education: Defining, Sustaining and Supporting Higher Skills Provision Employer Engagement with Higher Education: A Literature Review (full and summary) Research led by Richard Bolden at Centre for Leadership Studies, University of Exeter Website: ttp:// Wendy Hirsh can be contacted at Helen Connor at

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