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Can students be taught to articulate employability skills?

Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to report on research findings from a teaching and learning intervention that explored whether undergraduate university students can be taught to articulate their employability skills effectively to prospective employers and to retain this ability post-course. Design/methodology/approach: The study included 3,400 students in 44 courses at a large Canadian university. Stage 1 involved a course-level teaching and learning intervention with the experimental student group, which received employability skills articulation instruction. Stage 2 involved an online survey administered six months post-course to the experimental group and the control group. Both groups responded to two randomly generated questions using the Situation/Task, Actions, Result (STAR) format, a format that employers commonly rely on to assess job candidates’ employability skills. The researchers compared the survey responses from the experimental and control groups. Findings: Survey results demonstrate that previous exposure to the STAR format was the only significant factor affecting students’ skills articulation ability. Year of study and program (co-operative or non-co-operative) did not influence articulation. Practical implications: The findings suggest that universities should integrate institution-wide, course-level employability skills articulation assignments for students in all years of study and programs (co-op and non-co-op). Originality/value: This research is novel because its study design combines practical, instructional design with empirical research of significant scope (institution-wide) and participant size (3,400 students), contributing quantitative evidence to the employability skills articulation discussion. By surveying students six months post-course, the study captures whether articulation instruction can be recalled, an ability of particular relevance for career preparedness.