The global skills and competency framework for the digital world

A skills-based approach to student placement assessment - webinar recording

The Computer Science department at the University of York has integrated SFIA into their assessment process for year-in-industry placement students.

Topics include...

  • how SFIA has been integrated into the student placement module and assessment process
  • the different roles involved and how students are supported
  • the benefits of using SFIA for both students and the University

Key learning points

The approach used for assessment

  • Students complete a 3000 word learning journal to reflect on their learning throughout their year and to highlight their own personal development
  • Students select 2 technical skills from the framework to be assessed against
  • Students work towards - and potentially achieve - level SFIA level 3 by the end of the placement year
  • The learning outcomes for the assessment are aligned with the SFIA level 3 behaviours
  • Formative feedback provided during the year by the student’s placement supervisor

Assessment outcomes

  • We assess the level students have achieved in their selected SFIA skills
  • Students receive pass/fail grade for the University year
  • We provide certification highlighting the skills they have used and the level they have achieved

Roles involved

  • Relationships Manager leads the programme and acts as a student supervisor and marker
  • A small team of additional University supervisors & markers
  • Student’s workplace supervisor involved in goal setting and monitoring
  • The student
  • A SFIA consultant to moderate sample of journals

The Benefits of using SFIA for our placement assessment

  • Certification & accreditation
  • Helps students to articulate their learning & achievements in an interview situation. 
  • Planning & objective setting at the start of the placement. This is done in collaboration with their company line manager
  • Assessing students achievements against an industry recognised standard
  • Career exploration & mapping. What skills have I used? What might a career look like in different areas of the industry & what skills would I need to develop to get there?

The webinars have been very popular, and a number of people have expressed interest in continuing informal discussions and knowledge sharing with other SFIA users.

Webinar recording

Slides available here (pdf attached)

Questions & Answers

We had a large number of questions over the 2 webinar sessions. Luke answered most of these on the webinar. 

One of the advantages of attending the webinars live is the opportunity to ask questions directly to our speakers. Where the answer is straightforward it is listed below. The others are answered on the YouTube videos.

Here's some of the questions Luke discussed/answered on the webinar.

  1. How are skills handled that start at Level 3 or above (e.g., Animation Development (ADEV) starts at Level 3 and Enterprise and business architecture (STPL) which starts at Level 5)
    • We take a pragmatic approach based on what is realistic for students to achieve on a year-in-industry placement
    • Help students to look at other related SFIA skills which provide a good fit to what can be expected . They may also choose a "back-up / reserve" skill e.g. Programming/software development (PROG) for Animation development. 
  2. Is there an expectation you have of the SFIA level for their assessment at the beginning and end of their placement?
    • Students work towards - and potentially achieve - level SFIA level 3 by the end of the placement year
  3. How do I know the skills needed for computer science roles?
    • This is determined by the roles on the placement and the type of work done by the employer. 
  4. Does the administrative/professional division at The University of York participate itself as a company where your students may take a placement ?
    • Yes they do provide a range of useful placement opportunities
  5. Have you considered formal assessment of SFIA competencies (leading to the award of SFIA badges) for your placement students?
    • We are considering this
  6. What is the rate of full time employment of students who completed the industry links placement?
    • Most students are employed after 18 months. Many students are offered jobs at the employer where they did their placement year.
  7. You mentioned that you are responsible for student employability; what do you do to align the skills the students are selecting with the skills employers are looking for?
    • The University has an industry advisory board.
  8. I'd be interested to learn more about the students' expectations of employers during their placements and the extent to which their expectations are met?
    • Employers visit the university to explain what is on offer. Previous placement students use their posters to provide a student-centric view. The university's Relationships manager works with employers and students to set expectations of  a good year-in-industry placement 
  9. I guess you have a template for the journal?
    • Yes, templates are provided for students
  10. For the SFIA professional skills, do you assess for knowledge, proficiency or competency - i.e. would the expectation from the placement be that they achieve proficiency (as define in the SFIA scheme and relevant ISO standards) or would it just be knowledge (a theoretical understanding relating to these skills at the required level)?
    • Students work towards - and potentially achieve - level SFIA level 3 by the end of the placement year
  11. This is a great objective foundation for students. Towards the end of their placement do you also cross reference to the UK Association Of Project Management (APM) Competence Framework for Project management. They might have already achieved some of these competencies.
    • Not directly but for some placements this could be done
  12. How do you orientate students to SFIA?
    • Use some basic orientation material when explaining how the placement works. Encourage students to use the SFIA website, and the Relationship manager provides orientation when explaining the placement scheme to students and monitoring their progress
  13. Does this get included in the student’s transcript (is this HEAR in the UK?)
    • Yes
  14. How familiar are the placement providers with SFIA ? Does the university need to provide details on SFIA?
    • Varied - some are familiar with SFIA from previous placement students. Some organisations use SFIA anyway. Some will need some briefing.
    • The focus for employers is providing good work opportunities and the SFIA descriptions ( behaviours and technical skills ) are easy to relate to the work place 
  15. How do you assess placement? Formative is quite straightforward but what about normative? Based on a semantic approach?
    • Based on achievement of work objectives. Evidenced by the learning journal and the student’s workplace supervisor (who are responsible for goal setting and performance monitoring on the placement). There is a small team of assessors/markers in the University (this helps consistency), moderation of assessment results internally and with external oversight. The scheme has been running for a number of years so is well tested and trusted as an approach. 
  16. What approaches do you think are most successful to student over-self assessment
    • Some students self assess at SFIA level 4. Students are reminded that they need to consider the behaviours/generic attributes described at SFIA level 4 (e.g. for influence and autonomy) not just some of the technical skill descriptions (e.g. for Programming (PROG) or Testing (TEST) at level 4. 

Additional questions/answers...

These were raised by webinar participants. They don't directly relate to the University of York's use of SFIA so we've provided a response from a SFIA Foundation perspective.

  1. Would you see any potential differences in applying these types of assessment with apprenticeships?
    • SFIA Foundation Response - There are clear similarities as apprenticeships could easily assess using SFIA to reflect experience gained. This would be an excellent and natural step to joining up the apprenticeship with the rest of their career. If any apprenticeship programmes wish to become SFIA Partners they should contact The SFIA Foundation.
  2. Are there other universities using or considering the same approach?
    • SFIA Foundation Response - Many other universities around the world are considering similar as a means to bridge the gap between education and employment but are not as far along as The University of York. If any universities wish to have a similar scheme and become SFIA Partners they should contact The SFIA Foundation.

University of York is a top 20 UK university and a member of the Russell Group (research intensive, academically excellent).
Our Computer Science department has just celebrated its 50 year anniversary in 2022 and is one of the UKs leading Computer Science departments.
There are c.800 undergraduate students split across 4 courses.
All of the undergraduate courses can be taken with an optional year in industry in year 3.