Employer Engagement C-SAP Blog

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Why Social Science Matters: Employer Engagement and Employabiltiy after the Crash: Opportunities and Challenges for Learning, Teaching and Employment

Posted by Àngels Trias i Valls on February 10, 2010

I didn’t realise that I hadn’t posted the published outcome of the workshop on Employer Engagment.

Here it is.

It is the second issue of ‘Why Social Science Matters’ by the HEA C-SAP in Birmingham

Employer Engagement and Employabiltiy after the Crash: Opportunities and Challenges for Learning, Teaching and Employment

It is free download here:

Employability after the Crash


Issues 2 is focuses on employability and employer engagement issues and includes papers from Patrick Ainley, Annika Coughlin, Vincent Carpentier, Max Farrar, Yiu Tung Suen, Matt Badcock, John Craig and myself. The issues derives from a C-SAP workshop earlier in 2008 and is well worth a read.

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The Official Views on Employer Engagement

Posted by Àngels Trias i Valls on February 10, 2010

This is a catalogue on the normative definitions on Employer Engagment


The website above is a prime example of a well developed, audited website, with all the facts and figures, well displayed, one that uses language effectively in making the HE discourses normative. 

There are many other website, most prominently the one by the business community http://www.dius.gov.uk/higher_education/employer_engagement which clearly signposts its main question at the start:

How can we equip the workforce with the skills for an innovative and competitive economy?

The site equally produced for a specific firewalling effect -by this I mean, the information you received through it is transparent and accesible but it is not produced to engage in further analysis or discussion. The question is misleading, and the language is heavily problematic. ‘equip’, ‘workforce’, ‘skills’, ‘innovative’, ‘competitive’ , ‘economy’. As simple as it may seems, each word is loaded with meaning, although the sentence is constructed as to avoid a precise, academic if you want, analysis of the cultural meanings. Why is ‘equip’ a suitable word in this context? It assumes that the current economy is fully understood, when we know one of our real tasks at the moment is about understnading what the economy really does and does not at present. It is yet unclear that we can define our current economic situation as one as ‘competitive’ -in relation to what? ‘innovative’? What innovations are there about ‘making money’? The sentence also does not bring out the possibility of a discussion on social understandings of this terms, it is for the loss of other terms, a closed, inward looking sentence.  There are many ‘taken for granted’ ideas (this is not about this website, this question is representative of many others articulated around this theme, I choose this totally at random, not in regards to the site in particular, and with no intention to target or offend this particular sentence. I ant to make clear that this is purely an analysis of how ideas are represented online). like, what is the politican and social weight of a term like ‘work force’, can employment be reduced to ‘work’? Shouldn’t be our concern about employment a larger one than what is defined by work? One that may encompass social relations, rights, obligations, engagement with employers and other…work by itself does not define the capacity of employment, the social and financial capacity of employment.

And after this, the HE article on Employer Engagement


Dreadfully structured page, hardly one can recognise what is going on, but the pdf articles are on the right. A little summary would have been good, just to help the reader have a sense of the overall discussion on this! The powerpoints have some interesting ideas, although some once again are buried in auditing language. At this point one of my concerns is on the acquisition of managerial language in HE.  The language used to analyse and think through these themes is so dependent on managerial language that it is not always possible to actually say something about employer engagement, to see the trees from the almighty jungle.  The danger is of course, that the language we use, and that the questions we ask are not the best in helping us to make sense of the current issues of employment and crisis.  The kind of normative language used in the discussions (in the websites, officially, and so on) has emerged very radpidly, spread like fire very rapidly, and it is burning the intellectual ground as rapidly so. I think we all feel at a loss, I wish we could step out of this normative language of HE managerial practices when addressing social, employment and educational issues.

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Posted by Àngels Trias i Valls on February 10, 2010

The origin of the site was to post information relevant to the discussions on employer engagement and the current changes in Higher Education.

The previous posts were to give out some of the texts that started the generation of discussions, although as it happens the discussion never took place here, but elsewhere.  Whilst I feel, this website may not bring together a dialogical exchange of ideas through contributors, as it was hoped it would be, I am hoping to keep adding, ad-hoc and without a date stamp, any information or papers that come along that may be relevant.

Today, however, I want to reflect on some of today’s twitters that look at the changes in HE, many of which are underpinned by the discussions on employer engagement (for both staff and students) that are currently being discussed online.

There are now quiet but growing discussions about what it means to work and study in HE, in terms of crisis, in terms of employer engagement, in terms of acountability and the current reforms in HE that will see a fundametal change in staff employment, funding and the future of those degrees that are harder to find ‘a market for’. In other words, a critique to the disempowering knoweldge society in HE, a HE that is taking us to new University Reforms and to the new ‘supermarket universities’. I much suspect that further entries of mine will be looking at this issue of ‘supermarket universities’ and to other people’s ideas on this.

I owe this blog, two posts that I left behind, in my ‘list to do’ and it took more than half a year to do (blame it on this being my 24th website/blog I run here and there)…

Here it is the first

This was passed on by Joyce, it is called ‘Jump You Fuckers!’ and it is on a pdf link here: Dan Hind http://www.versobooks.com/FTP/Jump%20You%20Fuckers%202%203.pdf

Also by Joyce,

A summary of the C-SAP event

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The Crunch Generation

Posted by Àngels Trias i Valls on May 14, 2009

Graduate Careers and the Recession

Guardian 10 January 2009:  The Crunch Generation




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Background Readings

Posted by Àngels Trias i Valls on May 14, 2009

Previous to the Event we circulated a series of readings and links to readings to start people thinking about these issues, they are here for you to read and comment. I will add one by one so anyone wishing to make any comments on the article or its impact to this event’s theme can do so after the article.

Here we go….

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Background to the Event

Posted by Àngels Trias i Valls on May 14, 2009

Employer Engagement and Employability after the Crash: Opportunities and challenges for social science learning, teaching and employment

There have been growing efforts, across institutions, funding councils and students, amongst others, to enhance both ‘employer engagement’ with HE and student development of discipline-specific skills of ‘employability’. Whilst academics in various disciplines have produced discipline-specific ‘benchmarking statements’ that consider the significance of these two processes, the anticipated economic ‘downturn’—or worse—suggests that there is a need to reconsider what employer engagement and employability might mean in circumstances when employers may become reluctant to be ‘engaged’ and when students can be as ‘employable’ as possible and still not find employment. There is also a need to consider the analytical tools that the social sciences might offer for a critical exploration of the current situation that could contribute to a larger project of transformation. The proposed day workshop offers students, lecturers and employers the opportunity to:

  • More fully understand the current economic situation;
  • Critique the concepts of ‘employer engagement’ and ‘employability’ given this situation;
  • Explore how pedagogical strategies and discipline-specific insights can help students and staff effectively engage with and seek to understand the challenges of the shifting sands of work and the workplace more generally;
  • Consider new, and reconsider existing, opportunities for employment, especially in voluntary and public sector organisations that social science graduates often enter;
  • Examine the role of universities in preparing students for a global workplace given  the current crisis;
  • Reflect upon the tensions between the historical role of universities as sites where learning for its own sake took place/takes place and the growing role of universities as sites for knowledge transfer through engaging with employers’ agendas. 


Confirmed speakers:

Patrick Ainley, University of Greenwich ‘Fick Higher Education, Employability after the credit crunch’

Matt Badcock, Birmingham City University, ‘Sociology and the public(s): Using public sociology to rework student engagement beyond the university’

Annika Coughlin, University of Bedfordshire, ‘Examining employability: modes of explaining “success” or “failure” in the transition from university to work’

Max Farrar, Leeds Metropolitan University, ‘How to earn a living without selling your soul’

Aaron Porter, Vice President, NUS ‘Down but not out: A student view of the implications of the credit crunch on the HE students of today’

David Woodman, Roehampton University, ‘Placement learning: The incitement of personal disclosure’

Friday 20 March 09, Birmingham


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Welcome to the Employer Engagement C-SAP Blog!

Posted by Àngels Trias i Valls on May 14, 2009

Welcome to the blog for Employer Engagement and Employability after the Crash: Opportunities and challenges for social science learning, teaching and employment 

Feel free to express your ideas about Employer Engagement in UK’s Higher Education

All Welcome

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