“Employability is the ability to find, create and sustain meaningful work across the career lifespan.”
Bennett does a great service to students (read: the professionals of the future), future employers and the world by framing employability as the development of student thinking rather than preparation for a single linear time-bound destination, job, or workplace.
This is perhaps best captured by the graduate destination data demonstrating the impact that the inclusion of part-time and casual work have on employment opportunities for graduates:
Students need to be agile life-long learners who can generate opportunities for themselves.
How do we help students prepare for that? What is the goal?
Our students need to be able to advocate their capability – just as Leonardo Di Vinci does in this speculative cover letter, answering the question, what value does a polymath have to wider society in wartime?
9. And should a sea battle be occasioned, I have examples of many instruments which are highly suitable either in attack or defence, and craft which will resist the fire of all the heaviest cannon and powder and smoke.
10. In time of peace I believe I can give as complete satisfaction as any other in the field of architecture, and the construction of both public and private buildings, and in conducting water from one place to another.
What can we do in curriculum? Will it be a lot of work?
When it comes to embedding Bennett reassures that educators don’t need to work more to squeeze yet another element into curriculum, but rather work differently.
By finding touchstones – opportunities in current learning activities or assessment – we can design moments of critical reflection.
Since only one touchstone is required per unit, this is feasible for all unit convenors:
One example provided was a reflection task (worth 0%) for first-year planning students. Without structure, students often find it difficult to engage in authentic critical reflection, i.e. moving beyond descriptions. Applying a reflection scaffold (e.g. strands of reflection, critical incident analysis, Smyth’s reflection on action, or Kolb and Fry’s experiential circle) provides guidance for students to create their own reflective practice and construct their sense of identity – present, past and future selves.
Another example included a site visit and panel for second- and third-year music students. Typically, students haven’t prepared any questions to ask the panel of professionals – what a missed opportunity! With a small tweak, students are required to bring three (3) questions (a site visit ticket!) in order to enter the panel session.
Can students take charge?
Taking a similar approach to Stanford’s 2025 Designing Your Future, the Developing EmployABILITY student starter kit can be plugged into any Learning Management System and used by students throughout their studies.
It is a resource that rewards student input with a personalised report. Students create a profile using the EmployABILITY self-assessment tool. The personalised report generated offers career stories, EmployABILTY resources, and industry snapshots, as well as guidance on what the literacies mean and what you can do to learn and grow – and meet you own goals!
Most importantly, Bennett can extract cohort data from the Developing EmployABILITY student starter kit. Macquarie Engineering are already reaping the benefits of this embedded approach, student toolkit access, and insights into student thinking towards employability.
For program directors and unit convenors, Developing EmployABILITY is a tool that’s definitely worth exploring.