What is employability?

The term employability is used in different contexts and in different ways.

a set of achievements – skills, understandings and personal attributes – that make graduates more likely to gain employment and be successful in their chosen occupations, which benefits themselves, the workforce, the community and the economy

Professor Mantz Yorke (2004)’Employability in Higher Education: what it is- what it is not’, Higher Education Academy/ESECT


Employability is not the same as gaining a graduate job, rather it is about the capacity to function successfully in a role and be able to move between occupations, thus remaining employable throughout their life.

What employability is and is not


Employability is not: Employability is:
  • simply getting a job
  • ongoing success for now and in the future, whatever career or career(s) a student chooses
  • a list of skills that can be ‘taught’
  • drawing on a range of skills, abilities and attributes that are developed in a whole range of settings and that vary from individual to individual
  • the sole responsibility of the Careers Service and the EmployabilityConsultancy
  • a University-wide responsibility
  • the same as Personal Development  Planning (PDP)
  • an ongoing developmental process that benefits from active reflection
  • something new
  • more important now than ever before in light of the world graduates are entering


CareerEDGE model

Developed by Pool & Sewell (2007) and based on a range of employability models and theories, the CareerEDGE model provides a useful summary of five essential elements that aid students’ employability:


Career Development Learning – the knowledge, skills and experience to help students manage and develop their careers.

Experience – work and life experiences help students develop a broader range of skills and are attractive for prospective employers

Degree subject knowledge, understanding & skills

Generic Skills

Emotional Intelligence – “the capacity for recognising our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves, and for managing emotions well in ourselves and in our relationships” (Goleman, 1998).  This is particularly important in recruitment situations and in developing effective working relationships.

All five elements are important and missing one can considerably reduce a student’s employability.  Each element is important in its own right, but all five overlap and are integral to each other.