22 SES 02 D, Graduate Employability and Competences
One of the current concerns in the academic and policy debate on the transition from university to work is the need to enhance the graduates’ employability, turning it into a mission of higher education institutions (HEIs) (Suleman, 2018). Widest definitions understand the employability as a multidimensional construct focused on individual behaviors (career self-management, career-building skills), professional identity, personal adaptability, social capital (networks, social class, university ranking) and human capital (skills, competences, work experience) (Clarke, 2018; Fugate, Kinicki, & Ashforth, 2004). According to Hillage and Pollard (1998, p. 13) a comprehensive definition of employability “is the capability to move self-sufficiently within the labour market to realise potential through sustainable development. For the individual, employability depends on the knowledge, skills and attitudes they possess, the way they use those assets and present them to employers and the context (…) within which they seek work”.
In a Knowledge-Based Economy based on “learning organization” model for companies and flexible jobs, the investments in human capital (Becker, 1962) –skills and knowledge developed through formal, non-formal and informal learning activities– it is crucial for an individual. Thus, it is claimed that graduates need to develop generic and technical skills which are used in the workplace. These skills are not job specific but important in all industries and jobs at all levels (Tsitskari, Goudas, Tsalouchou, & Michalopoulou, 2017). In order to be flexible, graduates need an ability to adapt to changes –by quickly learning new knowledge and skills or by possessing a large reserve of general or multidisciplinary skills–, to change their work environment –to make better use of their existing skills despite the shifts in the demands– and to possess a high level of ability to deal with change in a positive way seeing changes as “windows of opportunities” rather than as threats (Van der Velden & Allen, 2011). Recent studies have demonstrated that graduates who have gained a competences profile that fits the set of competences required from the labor market are more likely to find a job (Teijeiro, Rungo, & Freire, 2013). In this sense, HEIs can create awareness of the competences necessary for career success in contemporary organizations (Clarke, 2018).
Few attempts have been made to identify commonalities between various competences lists or identify deficiencies in lists (Bridgstock, 2009). Moreover, little consensus has been reached in the research on employability skills, increasing the uncertainty about this issue (Suleman, 2018). For this, a more specific review on competences requirements from labor market across different occupational fields and geographic areas might be need.
Based on the reported evidence, the aim of the present work is to review the existing literature about the requirements in generic competences of graduates (also called soft skills or employability skills) in the employers’ recruitment decisions. Thus, we analyze articles focused on generic competences from the perspective of different occupations and industries published in impact journals. In that regard, this work provides information on the current international research of generic competences from the perspective of employers.
We have conducted a systematic review of the literature in which we evaluate the material that has been already published on the topic. Therefore, the methodology used is consistent with similar studies, considering that the components of literature reviews can be arranged in various ways (American Psychological Association, 2010). Search strategies and inclusion criteria We searched relevant publications of the literature published from 2008 to 2018. This period was selected due to the emerging of the world economic decline which began in 2008 –Great Recession–. This recession raised the unemployment rates in different parts of the world, causing strict requirements in the employability skills. The selection of articles included in the final review was made based in publications which their topic were the importance or requirements in generic competences of graduates (soft skills or employability skills) through the employer perspective in the public or private employment context. In contrast to other studies, we have conducted our research within an international geographic context from the point of view of different fields of activity and professional occupations. The search strategy included the following keywords: soft skills, generic competenc*, job skills, employability skills, employ*, recruit*, requirement*, higher education, and graduates. Titles and abstracts of all manuscripts were reviewed, then the full text was retrieved for further scrutiny. The selection of articles to be included in the final review was made using the aforementioned criteria after having read the complete article. Considering the number of studies, the filter criteria is that the manuscripts were included in the JCR database (Journal Citation Report), the quality indicator most valued in the academic world which measures the impact by citations received. Consequently, the computer database for search of relevant publications is Web of Science (WOS). Of the 30 articles that examined the requirements of generic competences from the perspective of employers, 10 articles fit the criteria outlined above and were included in this systematic review. The articles cover different areas of the world (sample region): Europe (5), Asia (1), USA (2), Oceania (1), and an investigation including North-America, Asia and Oceania (1). Methods used in the publications were: questionnaire (7) with Likert scales, and content analysis of job advertisements through websites (2) or micro data (1) provided by an employment analytics and labor market information firm. The studies correspond to a wide range of industrial activity fields: production, tourism, transport, commerce, or technology companies, among others.
The studies identified in our systematic review conclude that generic competences/employability skills are important in the recruiting process of graduates. Thus, most skills are valued with high positions in the scales (Hinchliffe & Jolly, 2011; Palmer, Montaño, & Palou, 2009; Plăiaş, Pop, Băbuţ, & Dabija, 2011; Rizwan, Demirbas, Al Sayed, & Manzoor, 2018; Teijeiro et al., 2013; Tsitskari et al., 2017; Wikle & Hagin, 2015) or are included as a specific requirement in job advertisements (Ahmed, Capretz, & Campbell, 2012; Ahsan, Ho, & Khan, 2013; Deming & Khan, 2018). In addition, regarding the analysis of competences requirements we can observe differences in the rating by occupations and industries. In this sense, our systematic review suggests the need for robust studies that show the coincidences and divergences of the job skills required in the hiring processes by fields of activity and geographical areas. An important consideration extracted from our literature review is that the investigations coincide in the generic competences/employability skills to be evaluated but differing in their specific denomination. In this regard, an agreement on the terms used or the validation of scales would optimize the international comparison. In general, studies focused on the analysis of competences demanded by employers might serve as a guidance to higher education institutions for the revision of their curricula, boosting the employability of their graduates.
Ahmed, F., Capretz, L. F., & Campbell, P. (2012). Evaluating the Demand for Soft Skills in Software Development. IT Professional, 14(1), 44-49. Ahsan, K., Ho, M., & Khan, S. (2013). Recruiting Project Managers: A Comparative Analysis of Competencies and Recruitment Signals From Job Advertisements. Project Management Journal, 44(5), 36-54. Becker, G. S. (1962). Investment in human capital: A theoretical analysis. Journal of Political Economy, 70(5), 9-49. Bridgstock, R. (2009). The graduate attributes we’ve overlooked: enhancing graduate employability through career management skills. Higher Education Research & Development, 28(1), 31-44. Clarke, M. (2018). Rethinking graduate employability: the role of capital, individual attributes and context. Studies in Higher Education, 43(11), 1923-1937. Deming, D., & Khan, L. B. (2018). Skill Requirements across Firms and Labor Markets: Evidence from Job Postings for Professionals. Journal of Labor Economics, 36(51), S337-S369. Fugate, M., Kinicki, A. J., & Ashforth, B. E. (2004). Employability: A psycho-social construct, its dimensions, and applications. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 65(1), 14-38. Hillage, J., & Pollard, E. (1998). Employability: Developing a framework for policy analysis. Brighton: The Institute for Employment Studies. Hinchliffe, G. W., & Jolly, A. (2011). Graduate identity and employability. British Educational Research Journal, 37(4), 563-584. Palmer, A., Montaño, J. J., & Palou, M. (2009). Las competencias genéricas en la educación superior. Estudio comparativo entre la opinión de empleadores y académicos. Psicothema, 21(3), 433-438. Plăiaş, I., Pop, C. M., Băbuţ, R., & Dabija, D. C. (2011). Employers' Perception Of Competences Acquired Through Academic Marketing Training In Knowledge Based Economy. Amfiteatru Economic Journal, 13(30), 448-463. Rizwan, A., Demirbas, A., Al Sayed, N., & Manzoor, U. (2018). Analysis of Perception Gap between Employers and Fresh Engineering Graduates about Employability Skills: A Case Study of Pakistan. International Journal of Engineering Education, 34(1), 248-255. Suleman, F. (2018). The employability skills of higher education graduates: insights into conceptual frameworks and methodological options. Higher Education, 76, 263-278. Teijeiro, M., Rungo, P., & Freire, M. J. (2013). Graduate competencies and employability: The impact of matching firms’ needs and personal attaintments. Economics of Education Review, 34, 286-295. Tsitskari, E., Goudas, M., Tsalouchou, E., & Michalopoulou, M. (2017). Employers’ expectations of the employability skills needed in the sport and recreation environment. Journal of Hospitality, Leisure, Sport & Tourism Education, 20, 1-9. Wikle, T. A., & Fagin, T. D. (2015). Hard and Soft Skills in Preparing GIS Professionals: Comparing Perceptions of Employers and Educators. Transactions in GIS, 19(5), 641-652.
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