Employability within an Education for Sustainability Framework: The Ocean i3 Case Study
1.1. Education for Sustainability and Higher Education
1.2. Employability as an Objective of Higher Education for Sustainability
- Analysing the motivational elements that have led participants to become involved in the Ocean i3 project.
- Identifying the competences and skills that participants associate with the concept of employability.
- Pointing out action proposals that improve how employability is addressed in the Ocean i3 project.
2.1. Research Context
2.5. Analysis Procedure and Methodological Rigour
2.6. Ethical Issues
3.1. What Motivated Participants to Join Ocean i3?
Voice 1. After choosing my Final Year Project, or rather being assigned one, I had my first interview with who was going to be the project director where we discussed this project and I liked it (S-2/B).
Voice 2. Well, we first made contact with the project when we received a message from our school’s directorate (…) they encouraged those interested in the theme behind Ocean to get in touch to find out if the working group in the Legal Clinic could be expanded in any way (T-3/S).
Voice 3. I found maintaining relationships with France particularly interesting (S-7/B).
Voice 4. I wanted to do something different, something that was approached from a different point of view compared to what I had done so far. I had no idea what topic to base my dissertation on at all (S-5/S).
Voice 5. I find the misuse of nature, the misuse of plastic, the care of the sea, etc., all very interesting. I always try to instil this knowledge in young people or children or people around me. So when I saw that work was being done in different areas and in different ways within the university, I thought “wow, this is the subject that I am interested in” (S-4/B).
Voice 6. On the one hand, sustainability. Not sustainability in the sense of sustainability studies, of which there are plenty. But rather research studies for sustainability, with a transformative idea. This seemed to be one of the strong points of the Ocean project. It is not only research on the question of sustainability or environmental problems, but trying to transform reality (T-3/S).
Voice 7. The possibility of doing an internship was what interested me most. I had the opportunity to turn my Final Year Project into something real thanks to the internship, so that is what it was (S-2/B).
Voice 8. There was a physical meeting where all the challenges were presented one by one, with posters on the walls with the most significant aspects. Two of the challenges that were best related to education and the ones that I liked the most were by the Surfrider Foundation (that I had already heard about), so I signed up because I saw that I could work in this field in the future (S-4/B).
3.2. What Are the Competences That the Participants Associate with the Concept of Employability in Ocean i3?
Voice 9. When our students go out into the working world they will be presented with complex problems. To work on these problems they will need to work in teams, in interdisciplinary working groups, and usually in a multicultural and multilingual group. That is what Ocean i3 works on (T-4/B).
Voice 10. The project does not have employability as an objective, or at least I did not see it that way (S-1/S).
Voice 11. I think that important aspects of employability are worked on, even if sometimes students are not very aware of this fact; perhaps the students’ awareness does not really reach that point of internalisation (T-3/S).
Voice 12. Teamwork is very important for me. That is, understanding that I do not have all the answers, that my point of view alone is not enough, that I have to listen to others and work in a team (T-2/F).
Voice 13. The groups we are in are also very diverse, we have students, teachers, and researchers. I even have a nurse in my challenge! (S-6/F).
Voice 14. Above all I would say the interdisciplinarity that I highlighted earlier. In fact, the problems we face in life are often very complex, and this interdisciplinarity will also help us to work on complexity. Otherwise, how could we see the forest for the tress? We would not see it from other points of view (T-4/B).
Voice 15. (…) you also develop communication skills, see yourself more relaxed in this area, and gain experience that makes you feel more confident (S-8/F).
Voice 16. The multi-lingual aspect was extremely interesting (…) and I think it is even the strong point of Ocean i3; it reflects the diversity in the communities we have in the Basque Country, Spain, France, and all the way along the Aquitaine coast up to Bordeaux. So we have diverse territories, and therefore diverse languages. This diversity is clearly established, and this is the objective, which is not small. This linguistic diversity, therefore, brings a much broader vision than the one I had within my university circle and therefore gave me a new network, and new horizons for the continuation of my research (S-6/F).
Voice 17. When we entered the project we were working with a lot of autonomy. They told us that we were going to have a lot of work but they wanted people who could work on their own. Our teachers would not be chasing us up in the workplace, would they? (S-2/B).
Voice 18. When we were presented with the challenges, they all seemed really interested, but very complicated. We started thinking along general, abstract lines, but we had to come down to earth as far as possible (S-8/F).
Voice 19. The first is the ability to adapt, we live in a world where nothing is certain (…). What does the ability to adapt mean? That you know how to read the world in a new way every day. That is, you must have some certainties, but you have to question the world or our environment every day with different questions, or ask the same questions every day in search of different answers. It means reading the world and asking questions, looking for answers and not automatic responses (T-2/F).
Voice 20. The project has an interesting strong point: it is able to bring the university world and the real world (company, NGO, institution, etc.) together, something that is often seen as being very far-off. I think the students themselves often finish university with fear, nervous about the “job market”. (…) I think it could be way of bringing these two worlds together (S-1/S).
3.3. What Are the Weaknesses of Ocean i3 That Can Affect Employability?
Voice 21. Perhaps I was not aware of the importance of holding the seminars in person, as it has just happened recently, and following the seminars online has been a little complicated (S-2/B).
Voice 22. At the time I still had two subjects to finish, then I had the internship, and then the dissertation, so it involves a lot of hours in the end. Meetings were required sometimes, which I understand we had to have as we would not work on the positive aspects I have mentioned if we did not have these meetings, but I often felt overwhelmed or thought that I would not meet the deadlines (S-3/B).
Voice 23. As I was in challenge number one, sometimes I was not able to have information from the other different challenges, which was a shame (S-9/S).
Voice 24. I felt that employability was heavily connected to a few specific professional areas. It was difficult to access an internship from the educational world in my case, for example. The roadmap was more suited to legislators or students from other fields (S-4/B).
Voice 25. Sometimes it seems to me that there is not really a continuation of the theses by the public or private agents. They say that there is continuity, that your work is part of a larger project, but then you do the work and do not see this continuity, I am not sure how to explain it (S-7/B).
Voice 26. (…) the programme has taken on such a dimension that perhaps we should reflect a little on the future (…) I think that a weak point of the programme is that aside from the problems caused by the pandemic, the dimension that the community is taking on means it is not easy to get people involved every year, and for the students to feel involved and to understand in some way what we are here for. Nowadays I think that is the biggest weakness. It is something that we should try to improve somehow (T-3/S).
3.4. What Can Be Done to Improve How Employability Is Addressed in the Ocean i3 Project?
Voice 27. (…) a dissertation does not have to be purely theoretical, rather there should be room for a practical aspect which in the end is what I believe makes us grow more. For example, what I most valued about my work was that I was able to make it tangible by creating a web page for the project or for social media. So in the end you can see the results, and this is what in the end add exceptional value to your work. So agreements could be made to do more internships (S-8/S).
Voice 28. (…) to strengthen the relationship or this network that we are building, right? It is complicated during a pandemic but I think it would be interesting if there were more interaction between students and agents. If there could be short stays such as visits so that the relationship is not so formal in some way. We should have activities, moments, reasons essentially, to get closer to the agents, visit them, share their activities… ours too, but also theirs. I think that up until now what we have done has basically been to invite agents to our activities and it seems to me that it is important that our students and ourselves as researchers also somehow “muddy” our agent’s activities, spaces, and projects. (T-3/S).
Voice 29. Perhaps they could further strengthen the relationship with France (S-7/B).
Voice 30. I do not think we have ever thought about it, but creating a job pool could encourage students who have participated in the project to also look out at the employment world (T-4/B).
Voice 31. (…) to work on this awareness that one of the objectives of our work is to develop competences that help them to find a job and, furthermore, a job in accordance with values that I am sure people who are part of this community share (T-3/S).
- The use of different languages, the cultural contrast, academic learning with the interaction and involvement of social agents, the challenge-based approach to learning, and the combination of participation modes (academic work, internships, etc.).
- The variety of challenges that are accessible and close to the reality of participants, which present a visible and urgent environmental problem to be tackled, such as ocean plastic pollution.
- The concept of employability should be explicitly worked on in order to increase students’ awareness of the competences demanded by the job market, which are also those that are worked on in contexts that have an impact on education for sustainability.
- The competences that are perceived as contributing to employability have added features inherent to the characteristics of the learning ecosystem in which they are developed, such as: (a) the added value provided by teamwork and that is the fact that the people who participate in these teams come from very different fields of knowledge (hence the fact that the competence to work in interdisciplinary teams is developed); (b) oral communication; not only in participants’ native language but also in a range of languages (Basque, French, Spanish, and English), thus emphasising multilingual oral communication; (c) contextual and multicultural adaptation, insofar as academic and social-cultural codes specific to each context and situation must be handled; (d) resolving complex problems linked to the real, close, and accessible problem of ocean plastic pollution; (e) autonomy when demonstrating students have the knowledge, skills, and presence of mind in the project.
- to provide more space and time to share the achievements obtained while tackling the different challenges;
- to encourage continuity with regard to the individual and collective work carried out;
- to extend the internships offered with entities linked to the sea and present in the territory;
- to reinforce international links between universities and with the social agents of both territories;
- to set up a job pool to facilitate the job search process at the end of the Ocean i3 experience.
5.1. Implications and Recommendations
5.2. Limitations of the Study and Future Lines of Research
- The sample. Not having interviewed the entire participating population (specifically students and teachers of all grades) may not have helped in the overall interpretation of the phenomenon under investigation.
- The lack of available data. We refer to the fact that this work has been an exploratory enquiry that has revealed to us this double perspective on the concept of employability that, a priori, we were unaware of. The results obtained have highlighted that, depending on the role of the participants (students and teachers), the perception of the concept of employability after participating in Ocean i3 is very different and, therefore, this has a clear implication for how to approach this concept in the future.
- Previous studies. The extensive literature on the topic of education and competence development for sustainability, as well as the broad literature on the concept of employability linked to higher education. However, there is very little, if any, research on sustainability education ecosystems with a focus on employability competences.
- Self-reported data. We are aware that interview data are not always free of bias . We refer in particular to the bias that comes from interviewees attributing positive aspects to themselves and negative aspects to externals or others, and the exaggeration bias, which consists of attributing more significant aspects than there really were when they are asked about.
Institutional Review Board Statement
Informed Consent Statement
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
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|Student Code||University||Degree||Gender||Academic Year|
|Teacher Code||University||Field of Knowledge||Gender|
|First contact with Ocean i3||Quality of the first relationship||Space|
|Project and challenge selection||Project selection|
|Strengths for employability||Competences and skills||Team working|
|Weaknesses for employability||Contextual and methodological||Effects of COVID-19|
|Simultaneity of the challenges|
|Continuity of work|
|Internships with various professionals|
|Proposals for future improvements||Employability as a goal|
|More internship options|
|More relation with social partners|
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Zinkunegi-Goitia, O.; Rekalde-Rodríguez, I. Employability within an Education for Sustainability Framework: The Ocean i3 Case Study. Educ. Sci. 2022, 12, 277. https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci12040277
Zinkunegi-Goitia O, Rekalde-Rodríguez I. Employability within an Education for Sustainability Framework: The Ocean i3 Case Study. Education Sciences. 2022; 12(4):277. https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci12040277Chicago/Turabian Style
Zinkunegi-Goitia, Olatz, and Itziar Rekalde-Rodríguez. 2022. "Employability within an Education for Sustainability Framework: The Ocean i3 Case Study" Education Sciences 12, no. 4: 277. https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci12040277