New PebblePad study warns that students aren’t confident they have the skills needed for work – so what can be done?


If you’ve been keeping an eye on the education news, you might have seen our latest Careers Readiness report, which finds that two in ten (20%) of students aren’t confident their university will equip them with the skills they need for work. To inform the report, we spoke to undergrads across the UK – and the worrying news is that fewer than half of students say they’re ‘very confident’ they can demonstrate any of the key skills needed for employment, from critical thinking to digital literacy, discipline knowledge and creativity.

There is good news to be had though – we found a really engaged student cohort across all subjects – who are working hard to gain the right skills for employment. There is plenty that students can do to upskill – and importantly, to evidence and articulate all the skills and knowledge they develop throughout their studies.

More authentic learning opportunities

In our survey, students reported that they want fewer exams and more authentic (real-world) learning opportunities. While we don’t think universities will do away with exams just yet, they are increasingly prioritising authentic learning, where students get to try out the skills they’ve gained in real-world situations.

As well as taking advantage of these opportunities, it will also be crucial for students to engage with one-to-one services such as personalised coaching, helping not just boost skills but also gain the confidence which is so vital for employment and beyond. And students should look outside the classroom too – to extracurricular activities like team sports and volunteering which help boost important soft skills such as collaboration, problem solving and communication.

A skills articulation gap?

 At PebblePad we don’t believe there’s a skills gap – but instead a ‘skills articulation gap’ where students have plenty of skills but simply don’t know how to convey them or prove them.

Indeed, it’s perhaps the case that while students don’t feel prepared for a life beyond university, they actually have many more transferable skills than they think. So, there’s a real need not only for students to build their skills, but also to recognise and gather evidence of them – and be able to articulate them with confidence.

We think that universities need to prioritise providing employability skills development opportunities embedded within the curriculum – or ‘embedded employability’. And in turn, students need to be asking ‘how is this getting me ready for the world of work?’

A portfolio to be proud of

A great way to build up evidence of skills is to make use of your institutions’ eportfolio provision, document your learning over time, and use the space to store, analyse and reflect upon work.

Indeed, with technology such as PebblePad, students can structure their learning experiences and bring together evidence of their disparate skills and achievements from day one of their studies. PebblePad will support rich feedback and authentic assessment practices wherever and whenever the learning occurs, providing a meaningful record of student development towards their future career aspirations.