Improving the employability of learners and engaging effectively with employers are drivers shaping (and reshaping) approaches to learning and skills development across the education sector. e-Portfolios have the potential to play a part in presenting achievement for recruitment as well as work-based learning, PDP, CPD and appraisal.
However, employer engagement with e-portfolios and perceived benefits are areas not fully known and require further research and investigation. Part of the PDP for Cross-Institutional Lifelong Learning project (PDP4XL2) project has been looking at employer perspectives on PDP and e-portfolio within the creative industries. There appears to be a variation in employer attitudes to e-portfolio presentations of applicants’ PDP records. Some were enthusiastic about a better chance of understanding the individual more fully whilst others were concerned that it would make the selection process more time consuming.
Using an e-portfolio for continuing professional development
There are very differing and diverse attitudes to e-portfolios for supporting PDP and CPD amongst employers. Many employers understand that their employees need to constantly update their skills and to engage in CPD (Continuing Professional Development) to review their skills. Some form of recording and reviewing of learning and development is now undertaken by employees in most large and sometimes small companies. Typically larger organisations will expect graduates to have the skills and knowledge to develop and maintain an e-portfolio for CPD and to show evidence that they are regularly updating their skills.
Attitudes to personal development planning
Gareth Edwards in ‘Connecting PDP to employer needs and the world of work‘ has drawn together key findings from major research undertaken by the QAA in 2000 about employer attitudes to PDP. 18 graduate employers and 7 professional and statutory bodies discussed their attitudes towards PDP.
Although published in 2005, it provides some key indicators about employers’ perceptions of PDP, for example, they are more interested in the process of PDP rather than the ‘documented outcomes’. It was felt that by engaging with PDP, learners would be more able to reflect on their experiences (both academic and non-academic) and articulate their skills and knowledge in the recruitment process. Guidance should be provided to learners on key competencies such as:
- Flexibility, adaptability and managing change
- Self motivation and drive
- Analytical ability and decision making
- Communication and interpersonal skills
- Team working
The use of employer feedback to inform PDP tools and processes was an important part of the PDP4XL2 project. The PDP4XL2 project also found that Creative Industry employers seek individuality and personality in job applications, particularly for the large companies, and most are positive that PDP can help the applicant to clarify their goals and express them in this respect. Few employers, however, believe they have time to view applicants’ e-portfolios. There was a high value overall attached to the PDP process and the concept of e-portfolios as a tool within the learning process.
Attitudes to personal development planning
Employers require a professional image to be presented to them, whether a presentation e-portfolio or a blog as part of the e-portfolio process. A work-based mentor, a participant in the HELPP project, makes the point that a professional blog is very different to a personal one – the language used, the presentation, the types of comments that are attached must be carefully considered:
'It’s professional so I think the actual words that people use on the blog should be professional, should come across professionally and it should be professional. …it’s got to be different.'
Learners also need to be aware that personal blogs can be read by prospective employers and clients.
Views from the creative industries
'E-portfolios allow employers to recruit on attitude rather than merely skills'
'E-portfolios can allow employers to see the spirit of the person'
'The creative industries rely on networking and paper based methods to recruit but this process fails to assist employers in revealing the kind of person they seek – e-portfolios could improve this process'
'There is a desperate need to access individuality, key strength, passion and essence of a person'
Adapted from Hanson, J and Uddin, A (2007) ‘E-portfolios: employability or engagement?‘
'If differentiation has a personal element, it gets at the spirit of the person, so you feel like you know the person through a personal account of themselves. I think that makes all the difference.'
Employer from the creative industry, PDP4XL2 project