From education to employment

Unconventional approach to tackling employability issues

Scott Hibberson is e-learning advisor at Jisc

What’s the very hottest of all the hot topics facing learning and skills providers at the moment? Employability must be one of the strongest contenders for the title, which is why we’ve chosen it as the theme for LearnPod14, this year’s unconference for FE colleges and skills providers in the North.

It will take place on Wednesday, 16 July and if you’ve never been to an unconference before, maybe this is the year to give it a try. For one thing it’s free (and includes lunch and cake!), but much more importantly, it’s an opportunity to decide for yourself what you need to know about the topic, discover some possible answers and come away with ideas to explore in the future.

There’s no set agenda for an unconference, just an overarching theme to bear in mind and it really gets started where the traditional conference format leaves off. Delegates are invited to come along in the morning and pitch their ideas for what they’d like to talk about –whether they have some expertise that they’d like to share and get feedback on, or whether they’ve got a problem that needs a solution. As many as possible of these will then have the opportunity to run a workshop, give a presentation or perhaps simply ask an initial question to kick off a conversation. No-one has to pitch an idea, but it’s a very good way to make sure there’s a discussion that’s geared to your particular area of interest. Whether you do so or not, it’s important to be an active participant, to choose the workshops and break-outs that interest you, go along, and chip in with your comments.

If you pick a session that turns out not to be for you, no-one minds if you head straight off to a different one. It’s a dynamic format designed to enable every delegate to select what interests them and simply focus on that. It’s a different way of doing things and we’ve learned over the years that delegates like it because the people facilitating the discussions aren’t there to promote a product or service. They are genuinely interested in sharing ideas and experiences with their peers.

As in previous years, Doncaster College is hosting LearnPod, with support from Jisc’s Regional Support Centre (RSC) Yorkshire and Humber, and we expect a lively and highly relevant programme to emerge over the course of the morning. There’s sure to be plenty of variety too – a number of recent reports have highlighted how important employability training is for today’s learners whether they are studying for degrees , not in education or training at all, or somewhere in between, so it’s a subject that most of us can get behind.

For my own part as a digital technology enthusiast, I’m looking forward to the opportunity to chat informally with delegates about ways that technology can support their efforts to boost employability. Not just by supporting academic achievement but also by boosting softer skills such as communication, resourcefulness and team-working as well as personal attributes such as self-motivation and resourcefulness. There’s a whole range of digital tools available across Jisc to help learners showcase their talents, including ones that can help level the playing field, such as the Jisc Techdis Toolbox, for those with additional physical needs or learning difficulties.

Find out more about LearnPod14, and sign up here. Contribute to lively discussions about employability issues before, during and after LearnPod14 using ?LearnPod14 or by joining the Facebook group. In the meantime, you can find out more about using digital technologies to support employability in our guide.

Scott Hibberson is e-learning advisor (learning resources) at Jisc regional support centre Yorkshire and the Humber

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