Skills Development and Careers Support

CTaLE Working Papers and projects related to Skills Development and Careers Support. If interested, please get in touch with the respective academics of each project.

Ensuring that students develop, through their degree experience, skills for life after university is important for any discipline. Employers of economics graduates look for a mix of different skills and at CTaLE we have explored what those skills are and how they can be built into undergraduate degrees. We also review how best to provide economics students with the support they need to prepare for and navigate their future careers.


EconFrame is a photo competition designed for undergraduate students to submit a photo that captures an economic concept, event or news piece. Along with an original photo, participants must come up with a title and a 150-word abstract explaining how the photo relates to economics. This video tells the story of how this idea popped into our head initially. 

At its heart, this competition is a research exercise as it encourages students to connect economics to their everyday life, events or news around them (have “an eye” for economics). But more importantly, this competition shows that, at the deep level, economics is about humans and societies, not abstract models or aggregate data. It also brings economics closer to humanities and arts in terms of presentation and creativity.

Embedding Employability Skills in Economics Degrees

Prof. Cloda Jenkins

In this project, for the Economics Network, we reviewed what skills employers look for from UK economics graduates. We also surveyed economics departments in the UK to find out what they were doing to help students develop skills. There are a wide range of interesting initiatives in place, and many people working hard to support students in this area, but a mismatch still exists between the skills that are focused on in degrees and those that employers are looking for. We explore in this research why this might be the case and what challenges need to be overcome to make further developments in this area. This work was presented at the Development in Economics Education Conference September 2019. It was also discussed at a City University Seminar, CTaLE’s EconTEAching Session 3 and #TeachECONference2020. Further thoughts, building on this research, on how employability might be used as one measure of the relative value of degrees is also considered in this working paper forthcoming in the online book “What makes an economics degree ‘good’” (ed. Parama Chaudhury). An updated paper, including an initial discussion on the impact of Covid-19 and moves to adaptable learning on skill development, was prepared for CTREE 2021.

Ideas On How To Develop Skills

Prof. Cloda Jenkins

The CTaLE team have a number of initiatives in place at UCL Economics to help our students develop their skills, for academic study and later life, within their BSc degrees. Our focus on research-based learning, underpinned by Active Learning, Group Work, Alternative Assessments and Story Telling, is at the heart of this. Students develop skills best through learning by doing and we provide the opportunities for this across individual modules, through Skills Lab and our annual undergraduate conference ExploreEcon. We have shared our practical tips on skills development with economics colleagues at the Development in Economics Education Conferences in 2015 and 2017 and with colleagues at the UCL Teaching and Learning Conference in 2013 and 2015. We also presented our experience with research-based education in an interactive session at the HEA 2017 annual conference.

Skills Lab

The Skills Lab is a set of not-for-credit optional modules, one for each year group. They aim to help students develop research, writing and presenting skills that are required to do well in the degree and for a career as a professional economist, in academia or elsewhere. The online Moodle site for the course is currently open to over 800 undergraduates.

Student Judges

Since 2015, CTaLE have hosted an annual undergraduate conference, Explore Econ, where students present their research to academics, industry experts, civil servants, and fellow students. This year we took a step further and involved students in the peer review process of the conference by formally including in the Scientific Committee of the conference. This not only boosts the sense of student ownership of the conference but also helps “student judges” develop various skills like research evaluation, communications (with fellow committee members) and teamwork. Here, Mihir and Khushi reflect on their learning experience as “student judges” in the Explore Econ 2021.

Supporting Students With Their Career Journey

Prof. Cloda Jenkins

As well as developing skills that they will need in later life, students need advice and guidance whilst they work out what they want to do in the future, including whether and where to go onto further study. The CTaLE team provide this support at UCL Economics. We have reviewed the support we offer through a UCL Changemakers project and presented our approach to providing support in collaboration with UCL Careers and our student Economist’s Society at the 2018 UCL Education Conference. In 2017/18 we also introduced UCL’s BSc Economics with a Placement Year degree, offering a small group of students the opportunity to develop their skills through a workplace experience in their third year of a four-year degree.

What Skills Matter to Employers

Prof. Cloda Jenkins

Following on from our project on Employability Skills in Economics Degrees, for the Economics Network, we have dug deeper into what the skills that are prioritised by employers and economics departments in the UK mean from an employer perspective. In this report, co-written with a UCL Laidlaw Scholar Prisha Bhandari (UCL), we summarise what employers are looking for based on internet research of eighty employers. The report relates to top employers of UCL Social and Historical Sciences graduates but all the sectors mentioned are popular destinations for economics graduates as well as those from other social science backgrounds.  In a complementary second report, Cloda Jenkins presents a summary of an updated literature review on employability skills with the focus on what the literature says the skill areas mean.

What skills and tools do policy-makers use to analyse data?

Prof. Cloda Jenkins

A review by Veronica Hera (UCL BSc Politics, Philosophy and Economics, 2018-2021) and Shivam Gujral (UCL BSc Economics, 2019-2022). This review is based on work undertaken between April and September 2020 to inform a research project conducted jointly by Prof Cloda Jenkins (UCL Economics) and Dr Tom O’Grady (UCL Political Science and Q-Step). The research was funded by the UCL Social and Historical Science Dean’s Strategic Educational Enhancement Fund.