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Abstract

In a competitive, culturally diverse and increasingly internationalised workplace students can no longer assume that possession of a tertiary degree will naturally lead to employment. There has been a shift in the mindset of employers, who now seek to employ graduates with “employability” skills and attributes in addition to traditional expertise within their discipline (DEST, 2002). At first glance this appears to have placed an additional burden on universities in preparing students to be active citizens and engaged leaders, both within their chosen field and broader society. This paper discusses the project we embarked upon to compare the skills and attributes that employers consider most desirable with those traditionally required for academic success. We sought to determine to what degree these two skill sets can co-exist in units of study and found that many employability skills are similar to, and have the same underlying principles as, traditional academic skills. By considering these principles we believe it is possible to design learning experiences that support the development of both sets of skills and to embed such learning experiences in the content and teaching of discipline-specific courses, thus developing employability skills while maintaining academic rigour. This will help students meet the twin goals of obtaining a tertiary degree and maximising their employability potential.

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