Visibilization of Graduating Student Employability Skills via ePortfolio Practices: Evidence From East African HE Institutions

Visibilization of Graduating Student Employability Skills via ePortfolio Practices: Evidence From East African HE Institutions

Marcelo Fabián Maina (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Spain), Lourdes Guàrdia (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Spain), Federica Mancini (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Spain), and Denisse López B. (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Spain)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-7697-7.ch009
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Abstract

Embedding employability skills into the core of higher education is a priority worldwide to reduce the skills gap and better equip graduates for entering or progressing in the workplace. This chapter presents an innovative solution based on high impact e-portfolio practices developed within the H2020 EPICA project oriented towards making employability skills visible. It also reports on the implementation of a new methodology for assessing and micro-credentialing employability skills tested in three East African universities. The pilot carried out in a variety of study programs is described along with the measures taken to address the spread of COVID-19. Lessons learnt, transfer possibilities, and organizational implications are also reported as a final note on the experience. This high impact learning experience aims to inspire academic institutions to innovate by integrating e-portfolio and micro-credentials along with fresh pedagogical practices and strategies that better align the future workforce with societal and economic demands.
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Background

The Skills Gap in East-Africa

Employers’ concerns that graduates are not entirely fit for the workplace is increasing (Leopold et al., 2017). In the African context, the discrepancy between the skills that graduates possess and those that employers require for work is critical (Africa-America Institute [AAI], 2015). As a consequence, a significant number of graduates struggle with gaining employment after graduating, despite having earned good grades during their studies. According to some authors, this mismatch resides directly in the education system and in the priorities that it sets. Bhorat et al. (2017), Kalei (2016), and McCowan (2015) concur that subject-specific knowledge and good grades are given greater consideration by HE institutions than the acquisition of employability skills.

Inadequate employability skills developed in tertiary education, outdated teaching methodologies and the scarcity of employability skills-based curricula are identified by the British Council (2015) as having a significant impact on the unemployment rate amongst university and college graduates in Kenya. Whilst these studies concur overall regarding the employability skills gap and its possible causes, their findings may not be generalized to all African regions.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) argues that better investments in education are required in Africa to ensure the labour force’s capability of meeting the demands of the market (Martin, 2018). Furthermore, the effective contribution of active youth to the economy should be provided through careful approaches regarding the transition from school to work (Assan & Nalutaaya, 2018).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Skills: The ability to apply knowledge and use know-how to perform activities, complete tasks and solve problems.

Digital Badge: Indicator of an accomplishment, interest or skill that is visual, available online and can be earned in various learning environments.

Micro-Credentials: Micro-credentials are mini-qualifications, narrower than traditional qualifications such as diplomas or degrees, that demonstrate skills, knowledge and/or competence in a given area.

Evidence: Proof of the student’s achievement of the learning outcome/s.

Employability Skills: Skills that make someone desirable for a job position. They include a combination of soft skills, professional skills, skillful practices and the ability to reflect critically and productively on experience.

Competence: Particular qualities that the recruiters of a company have established as desirable for employees to possess. They correspond to a proven ability to effectively use knowledge, skills and personal attitudes in work or learning situations, and in professional and personal development.

Learning Outcomes: Clear statements of what a student is expected to know, understand and/or be able to prove after the successful completion of a unit of study and the level of achievement of those outcomes.

ePortfolio: A digital collection of electronic evidence assembled and managed by a user, usually on the Web. Such electronic evidence in the academic context may include course-related work as well as other aspects of a student's life, such as volunteer experiences, employment history or extracurricular activities.

Skills Gap: A discrepancy between the skills that employers demand and the current skills supplied by education institutes. This discrepancy makes it difficult for individuals to find jobs and for employers to find workers.

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