22 SES 02 B, Employability and Transition to Work of Higher Education Graduates
Parallel Paper Session
The ideas of classical full employment and lifetime jobs tend to become obsolete in contemporary societies, given the current economical and professional conditions. According to Beck (2000) this is part of a profound change that the author labels as transition from the first to the second modernity. Namely, “if the framework of a full-employment society is replaced with that of a multi-activity society (...) the occasion for a redefinition of work” is encouraged (Beck, 2000, p. 36).
At the same time, the “growing importance attached to educational credentials symbolises a tightening bond between education, jobs and rewards” (Brown, 2003, p. 142). In fact, an increasing number of individuals have been studying in educational systems, as well as participation in higher education has been steadily growing in recent decades. This can be part of a general view of education as a guarantee, regarding the achievement of certain social and professional positions in society, but currently might be, as Brown (2003) puts it, an “opportunity trap”.
Although higher educational credentials have an increasing importance as a condition to find a job, these are not a guarantee against unemployment and uncertainty within the graduates’ trajectories. Academic qualifications tend to assume a declining role in shaping employment outcomes, whereas “individualization” is a future scenario of work that might, on the one hand, enclose the “freedom of insecurity” but, on the other had, involve the risk of “disintegration” of societies (Beck, 2000).
Within this general context, we agree with the adoption of “expansive definitions of both education and work” (Bills, 2004, p. 3) in the research about their relationship. Namely, we take “education” in a broad sense that embraces a broad array of activities and structures, covering formal schooling but also learning taking place outside those boundaries. As for “work”, we are considering paid work, that is activity that is done in exchange for monetary remuneration, whether self-employment, under-employment, work that demands a formal connection to the educational system or not, and so on.
Thus, in previous research focusing higher education graduates’ transitions into work we have recognized that it is insufficient to analyse these transitions simply as a matter of adjustment between educational credentials, on the one side, and jobs within the labour market, on the other side (Alves, 2010). The employability of higher education graduates (here understood as getting or not getting a job), as well as the match (or mismatch) between a certain diploma and the professional trajectory of its owner, have been the object of many studies and major debates and are surely very important themes.
However, in line with Knight & Yorke (2004) we suggest that employability can be better understood as the suitability for graduate employment, which is clearly not the same as employment rates. Moreover, we think that the understanding of employability should change from the propensity of the individual to get employment to a further enhancement corresponding to graduates “being” successful” and “effectivly functioning” in their professional occupation (Storen & Aamodt, 2010).
Works Cited Alves, M. G. (2005). The entry into working life of higher education graduates: an educational perspective. European Journal of Vocational Trining (34), 28-39. Beck, U. (2000). The Brave New World of Work. Cambridge: Polity Press. Bills, D. (2004). The Sociology of Education and Work. Malden: Blackwell Publishing. Brown, P. (2003). The Opportunity Trap: education and employment in global economy. European Educational Research Journal , 2 (1), 141-179. Marques, A., & Alves, M. G. (2010). Inserção Profissional de Graduados em Portugal: (re)configurações teóricas e empíricas (Transition into Working Life of Higher Education Graduates in Portugal: theoretical and empirical issues). Braga: HUmus. Storen, L. A., & Aamodt, P. (2010). The Quality of Higher Education and the Employability of Graduates. Quality in HIgher Education , 16 (3), 297-313.
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