Graduates entering an ever-more-competitive job market are often unaware of the skills and values they offer employers. The challenge is greater with emerging job roles that require certifications and both multidisciplinary skills and specialist knowledge, even for entry-level positions.
We seek to empower our graduates and maximise their career prospects. New research has enabled us to harness the power of artificial intelligence for a custom-designed course planning and recommendation system for students based on the skills their desired jobs actually require. We named these curriculum delivery models JobFit and ModuLearn.
JobFit: a career-driven curriculum
JobFit builds on a simple premise of informing students about the skills they will gain by completing a knowledge unit. This helps students to analyse skills gained from an individual study pathway and how these relate to career prospects.
Students can explore and experiment with various pathways. This “what if?” analysis is tailored to their career goals and knowledge preferences. The system monitors their study progress and proactively offers alternative pathways to maximise their acquisition of skills related to their goals.
We base the skills on recognised frameworks. For science, technology and business, we use the Skills for Information Age (SFIA) framework version 8, defining 121 skills, each on seven different levels.
For example, performing a basic risk assessment in an organisation requires “information security” skill at the lowest level. At the highest level it enables the person to design organisational and governmental policies assuring global information security.
Drawing on these datasets, we designed a prototypical course-planning tool. (To login, please provide your email and role you would like to play in the system. A password is not required.) Western Sydney University students can use it to explore their skill compatibility with ICT job roles.
The chart above shows the compatibility with general role profiles, for Bachelor of ICT students considering junior-level positions. The video below shows the possibilities of this tool.
This approach has several benefits. First, students understand how their studies develop their skills. They can then set career-driven goals and make well-informed decisions about their study pathways.
Solid understanding of skills and knowing how to express these in CVs and cover letters are increasingly important. This is because human resource departments are adopting automated approaches to search for and filter out candidates, using algorithmic processing and text mining.
We can use SFIA to express skills in technology-related areas. However, it does not apply to other areas such as engineering, human sciences, law or medicine.
We are looking at acquiring data from an external partner to analyse and process required skills from live job offers across all industries. We will then be able to inform students on the quantity, variety and compatibility of actual job offers in any industry based on their knowledge profile.
This approach will also benefit curriculum designers facing the challenges of new subjects being rapidly introduced to maintain an advantage over competitors. The result is often an incoherent curriculum, particularly when it comes to meeting industry and employer needs.
A lack of understanding of what skills are desired in the job market and ad-hoc additions have led to programs that do not provide clear study pathways and relevance to work roles. Our model allows curriculum designers to analyse and validate their curriculum against job market needs.
Last, working with industry partners, we defined custom job profiles for the industry area of interest and locality. Students who target such custom skill sets are in a stronger position when applying for work with an industry partner.
READ MORE: Is Automation Jeopardizing Our Future
ModuLearn: promoting cross-disciplinary skills
Informing students on the skills they are acquiring is only half of the job. A student must also acquire all their desired skills in a relatively short period.
In undergraduate degrees, much of the course is typically pre-defined with core subjects. Students are often left with only one or two semesters to focus their knowledge on particular employers’ desired skill set. It’s even more of problem in shorter courses such as diplomas or certificates.
It’s likely too that a student’s faculty or school does not offer some critical skills. Students are often reluctant to study in a different school or faculty, fearing the challenge of a new environment.