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Employers tell us that they need employees to have a range of transferable skills, or capabilities, so that they are more effective in the workplace from the start of employment in using the technical skills and discipline knowledge they have gained. Employers want to have reliable evidence to help them identify potential employees with capabilities, and employers value these evidence-backed capabilities over and above CVs or academic transcripts. These employer needs are evidenced by an increasing body of literature in the past 20 years. Students’ employability would therefore be improved if they not only had these capabilities, but also, importantly, had evidence of them.

In collaboration with Future Skills Academy through Otago Polytechnic’s Auckland International Campus (AIC) we have already done research with employers in 2017-18, led by Dr Behnam Soltani and Dr Barry Law. From employer interviews, backed up by international research, we identified 25 learner capabilities which employers need graduates to have so that they are capable and work-ready upon entering the workforce.

We have also already introduced to AIC a web-based tool, called iamcapable, which students and tutors access to enable learners to track the development of capabilities and to have their evidence verified.

The success of the AIC pilot has led to the current research being undertaken in 2018 to validate the learner capabilities with employers of graduates from the Dunedin Campus. This involves investigating the relevance and prioritisation of the 25 learner capabilities by employers in a different part of New Zealand and across a much wider range of disciplines and their industries, communities and professions in which our graduates will be seeking employment.

In the first phase of this project, from August to October 2018, academic staff interviewed employers from a wide range of industries and professions to test and validate our identified learner capabilities. The results will reveal how employer priorities differ depending on the disciplines in which the learners have graduated. This data will immediately inform programme design and delivery, to provide learners with opportunities to acquire these capabilities and to gather evidence of their capabilities, which they can use in applying for employment after graduation.