It has long been recognised that while students have skills and attributes that are desirable to employers, they often lack the self-awareness and ability to articulate them adequately in recruitment or development situations.
Recommendations in the Dearing Report (NCIHE 1997) on the introduction of student progress files led to a range of initiatives that featured personal development planning (PDP). "The primary objective for PDP is to improve the capacity of students to understand what and how they are learning, and to review, plan and take responsibility for their own learning. In developing this capacity students will be better equipped to convince employers that they are employable and they should be more aware of what they need to do to stay employed" Yorke & Knight (2003).
Whilst PDP has not been widely utilised at UEA, there are a number of ways that Schools already provide opportunities for their students to reflect on their development, including:
- Regular advisory sessions in which the student is invited to reflect on and discuss their progress and their aims
- Project or work-related learning where students undertake an experience and then write a reflective report
- Research or professional skills units where reflective work is built-in to unit activities and assessment
- Group activities such as seminars with a reflective component
However, when reflective work is seen to lack intellectual rigour, is viewed as somehow implicit to the learning process or is neglected for other reasons, then it becomes sidelined by more inherently interesting and engaging activities (Moon 2004). As a result a proportion of students lack a clear perspective on how they are developing from semester to semester and from year to year. In the context of gaining employment, these students become graduates entering a marketplace in which they lack the awareness of what they bring to market, beyond a degree qualification. One tool to address this issue from an employability perspective at UEA is CV Builder, a Blackboard resource that provides a simple step-by-step format for students to chronicle their activities, identify their skills and abilities and construct a CV.
 Evidence from UEA Careers Service suggests this may apply to at least 20-30% of students who upon graduation have not sufficiently engaged with their self-development and have not used careers related services.
Moon, J. (2004) Reflection and Employability. Learning and Employability Series 1. York: The Higher Education Academy.
Yorke, M. and Knight, P. (2003) Embedding employability into the curriculum. Learning and Employability Series 1. York: The Higher Education Academy. Full Report (PDF).