Beyond employability: a more radical role for Higher Education in developing workplace capabilities

Reynolds, Martin; Ison, Raymond; Shah, Rupesh and Wilding, Helen (2020). Beyond employability: a more radical role for Higher Education in developing workplace capabilities. In: Employability Conference 2020 Expanding the narrative for a rapidly changing world, 11 Mar 2020, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes.



The relationship between higher education and the workplace might be imagined from two contrasting views – an employability viewpoint, and a workplace capability viewpoint. The employability viewpoint regards higher education institutions (HEIs) as one of many providers of training for enabling working people (principally employees) to enhance career progression whilst simultaneously enhancing economic performance as set and measured by external bodies (principally host employers and/or professional bodies). Alternatively, the workplace capability viewpoint, regards HEIs as providers of ongoing learning that transform workplace practices both at individual and institutional levels. Contrasting these two systems of HE support can identify opportunities and constraints for a more productive interface with the workplace.

The two viewpoints have emerged from a series of three successive projects carried out since 2014 by academics, alumni and employers associated with the Applied Systems Thinking in Practice (ASTiP) group at the Open University. The third and current project entitled Changing the way the game is played: Transforming PG Curriculum praxis and workplace capabilities focuses on two orders of support – (i) curriculum support for developing workplace capabilities, and (ii) capabilities to support curriculum development. The paper explores some significant opportunities and constraints towards a capabilities approach for promoting wider social wellbeing.

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