To read the full version of this content please select one of the options below:

Developing “employagility”: the 3Es case for live-client learning

Judith Fletcher-Brown (Portsmouth Business School, University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, UK)
Karen Knibbs (Portsmouth Business School, University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, UK)
Karen Middleton (Portsmouth Business School, University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, UK)

Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning

ISSN: 2042-3896

Article publication date: 11 May 2015




The purpose of this paper is to review live-client learning activities in higher education, highlighting a lack of multi-stakeholder evaluation of “learning by doing” pedagogies in current literature. It extends existing discussion of employability outcomes, dominated by findings from larger organisations, towards arguably, a more meaningful concept: “employagility”; whereby graduates engage in “agile” life-long skills development, through exposure to learning within small- to medium-sized enterprise (SME), enhancing potential to contribute to local and wider economies.


Findings from in-depth, semi-structured interviews and reflective learning journals, captured from triangulated perspectives, presented as the “3Es”: employers, educators and engagers (in this case, undergraduate marketing students).


Students identified involvement in “real” live-client projects, applying knowledge learned in the classroom to solve a business problem, enabled them to develop skills demanded by employers. Clients noted how student work exceeded expectations, providing tangible outputs and innovative ideas for their business, even through limited periods of interaction. Educators explained how relatively simple changes to curricula and extra-curricular activities can enable the development of SME-relevant “agile” graduates.


With SMEs at the forefront of government programmes to lead economic recovery, it is imperative higher education institutions recognise the need for development of appropriately “agile” graduates. This paper contributes a new 3Es model illustrating mutual benefits of collaboration, proposing a “competence-employagility” continuum.



The authors wish to thank Dr Valerie Anderson and Dr Beth Rogers, University of Portsmouth for their continued support. The primary research strategy for this work has been approved by Portsmouth Business School Ethical Approval Committee. All names of respondents have been removed to protect anonymity and confidentiality.


Fletcher-Brown, J., Knibbs, K. and Middleton, K. (2015), "Developing “employagility”: the 3Es case for live-client learning", Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning, Vol. 5 No. 2, pp. 181-195.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited