C6 - Teaching transferable career skills - a solution focused approach

Day 2 at 11:00 - Teaching transferable career skills - a solution focused approach
Day Day 2
Session C
Start time 11:00
Strand Postgraduate Research
Code C6

Martin Coffey - Career Management Skills Developer, University of Leicester

Jayne Sharples - Postgraduate Careers Consultant, University of Birmingham

Workshop overview

Traditionally, a UK PhD is a training for future academics.  However, as recognised by Roberts (2002), increasing numbers of PhD researchers has given rise to an increased need for preparation for careers beyond Higher Education (HE).

A contemporary HE challenge is the delivery of transferable career skills.  Defining skills is easy but the challenge is how best to teach them to students whose aspirations and aptitudes have not been oriented to a career outside of HE.

A collection of case studies from the early stages of a research project by Careers Network at the University of Birmingham demonstrates how researchers have successfully developed transferable career skills and transitioned to careers outside HE. Key findings set the scene for this workshop, with enterprise skills training highlighted as an effective way to support researchers to realise their potential and develop relevant skills to make empowered career decisions. This context setting will be built on by a paper from University of Leicester.

Enterprise skills do not easily lend themselves to teaching in the classroom, due to their practical nature and application.  Youth Enterprise Scheme competitions are designed to enable teams of PhD researchers to represent their University in developing a business idea along with the related enterprise skills.

Having prepared teams for a number of these competitions without success, the author developed a refined, fit for purpose, teaching approach.  Success followed, with teams reaching the national final of Engineering YES 2014 and 2015, and winning the national final of Biotechnology YES 2014.

The workshop outlines details the teaching principles employed, drawn from solution focused brief therapy:

  • Ask questions rather than sell answers.
  • Listening for, and reinforcing, student strengths.
  • Working with what people can do, and their relevant experience.
  • Focusing on details of the solution, not the problem.
  • Source/provide expert input when/where required. 

There is also a student demonstration of some of the skills acquired, along with a student explanation of their transformed appreciation of enterprise.

Workshop topics covered:

  • Innovative transferrable skills training
  • Employability
  • Enterprise skills development
  • Solution focused researcher training

Themes covered:

  • New approaches to enabling researchers to reach their potential and make powerful career choices

Workshop outcomes:

  • Describe an innovative methodology for developing researcher skills, in the area of employability and enterprise
  • Demonstrate skill development, via student demonstration
  • Explore links to real career outcomes and opportunities
  • Explore skills development 


Interactive workshop addressing an area of practice in researcher development.