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Significance of an ePortfolio to an Employer in this 21st Century

By Jude Lubega, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Nkumba University, Uganda

The value of an employee to an employer should be the ability to perform as expected to achieve the organizational goals set. It is always a complicated situation whereby an employer needs to ably confirm the true knowledge and skills set possessed by the would-be employee. The employer needs to ascertain whether the provided details on the curriculum vitae (CV) are true abilities and skills of a particular individual and that they suit the employment. On several occasions, it has been found that what is documented on the CV are not the right skill set of the individual. This has led to a cry from the industry indicating that graduates of today do not meet the requirements of the industry and cannot practically perform as per what is detailed on their CV. The urge from the industry has been how can they better interpret the potential employee knowledge and skill set possessed without too much hassle. There are increasing questions from industry players on whether the ePortfolio could be the answer to their impediment. The industry is looking for employees based on evidence of well-developed employability practical skills but not the grades attained from class that may not reflect the true abilities.

Right from enrollment into higher education until graduation, there is a lot that happens to a student in terms of knowledge and skills acquisition. The skills and competences acquired by individuals differ greatly despite having attended the same classes and training sessions. The learning path for the students usually varies and largely depends on the individual’s persistence to innovatively acquire any broad knowledge and practical skills exposed to them. It is not very often that the individuals going through this path of learning document what they go through and what they learnt over time but when it is very important for them. Sometimes, it is not entirely the individual efforts, but group efforts used to accomplish tasks and hence a consolidated effort which sometimes goes undocumented. The ePortfolio is something that has of recent been deployed by institutions, groups and individuals to effectively document experiences during teaching, learning, research and assessments. In higher education institutions, ePortfolios are gradually being adopted as an instrument that can be used to improve the students’ learning experience and further enhance their chances of employability and professional identification within the industry.

Individual ePortfolios is something that is being adopted of recent by several organizations as the one stop center when trying to understand the knowledge and skills acquired by the person over a certain period. Many organizations are grappling with the idea of interpreting the curriculum vitae as the main source of information on the individuals to be employed. In some situations, the curriculum vitae has not only been providing wrong information but also do not present the reality of knowledge and skills acquisition over time. The trend across Africa has been to request for working experience from the to be employee but without consideration of the recent graduates with no proof of experience. An ePortfolio generated during study until graduation can inform any employer the capability possessed by an individual. The ePortfolio illustrates clearly the abilities, strengths, weaknesses and skill set possessed or required within a specific field by the individuals or group of individuals. Organizations that have adopted the use of ePortfolios for recruitment clearly understand where the individual needs capacity building in order to fit into the workplace. Organizations use the data presented within the ePortfolio to evaluate the individual or group their strength within the context of the work to be undertaken. The ePortfolio also provides a knowledge and skills acquisition curve that is very important for any employer to understand the individual’s ability to learn on the job. The ePortfolio presents a living and dynamic composition of records that are a reflection of an individual’s accomplishments, skills, experiences and unique attributes over a period of time. This sort of documentation presents an opportunity to the employer to interact with the individual’s past work experience without their presence. It demonstrates to the employer that the individual has the minimum prerequisite needed for the job or not.

In the modern workplace, it is about achieving the set goals within a specific period of time by the necessary workforce. However, one of the main impediments to this is the placing of individuals to work on tasks or activities within the organizations but without the right skill set. This has deprived organizations in attaining their goals and hence return on investment questioned. With the use of ePortfolio, that has been developed over time, organizations can ably relate individual capacity and what they can do. Different individuals can be placed together to work on a specific task because of their related ePortfolio hence realizing the outputs from the tasks much faster. Through the available ePortfolios, organizations have the opportunity to profile their employees as per the knowledge and skill set possessed hence becoming so easy for them to deploy at any time. Organizations can also create capacity building programmes centered around the missing skill set and also use the available capacity to do peer training hence better utilizing the available human resources.

Therefore, the value of an ePortfolio to the employer and employee is profound and makes it a highly necessary documentation for job seekers and providers. To any prospective employer, the ePortfolio built right from the higher institution of learning is good enough to consider while vetting a new graduate for a job. Organizational ePortfolios could also be the future documentation to be used in the award of contracts to organizations since they present a clear description of what has been undertaken by organizations over a period of time. The significance of the ePortfolio is becoming very significant and should be encouraged within institutions of learning and industry if return on investments for employees is to be well realized.

All the above reflects the value of the EPICA ePortfolio that will provide skills visibility to the employers to make a better selection of their future employees, a clear need identified in Africa and beyond.