22 SES 01 C, Employability and Transition to Work of Higher Education Graduates
Within the field of studies focusing transitions of higher education graduates into the world of work, many research projects have addressed issues such as employment status and adjustment between educational credentials and positions in the labour market. However, we argue that employability can be better understood as the suitability for graduate employment, which is clearly not the same as employment rates (Knight & Yorke, 2004). Moreover, we claim 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).
Being so, this paper continues a line of inquiring that has been developed in the past few years, namely addressing the relevance of studying professional learning and sketching an analytical framework to research it. From this previous work, it is assumed that professional learning is about educational settings, work organisations, everyday learning and the interaction between them along (individual and collective) timelines; also, it is a process increasingly valued and recognised and even formally accredited in the so-called learning and knowledge societies in which we live today (Alves, 2012).
Taking into account these assumptions, we now intend to explore a different angle, namely questioning what type of knowledge is visible and considered crucial by the graduates within that process of professional learning that is underneath transitions from education to work.
In the new economy, knowledge is seen as a “key factor in production, diminishing the primacy of capital and labour” (Brint, 2001, p. 101), as well as professional knowledge becomes quite important in the economies of advanced capitalism arising the term “knowledge worker”. We agree with Brint (2001) when the author states that within this context our attention should not focus only on educational credentials, but mainly on the knowledge those workers bring into the labour market. But what type of knowledge are we referring to?
Considering the specific case of higher education, is has been highlighted that since we are preparing students to an uncertain and even unknowable future, the emphasis on transdisciplinarity and agency is of particular relevance. In fact, besides “disciplinary” knowledge, challenges arisen by “practice and action” require a transdisciplinarity mode of knowledge production (Maxwel, 2012). Likewise, the notion of agency is considered critical: even if the importance of focusing on learning as delivery (having) and interacting (doing) is not denied, it is suggested that higher education also concerns ontological learning - “the being mode” (Su, 2010). Accordingly, the model formulated by Knight & Yorke (2004) seems to comprise these diverse dimensions by including “understanding, skills, efficacy beliefs, personal skills and qualities, and metacognition” as elements of higher education graduates’ professional knowledge.
One of the objectives of the paper is to further discuss and explore these theoretical and conceptual proposals; another objective is to confront it to the empirical data available; and finally the intention is advance towards sketching an analytical framework to study professional knowledge of higher education graduates.
Alves, M. G. (2012). What is professional learning about? Framing an educational point of view. PROPEL International Conference - Professions and Professional Learning in Troubling Times (pp. 1-14). Stirling: Stirling University. Brint, S. (2001). Professionals and the "Knowledge Economy": Rethinking the Theory of Postindustrial Society. Current Sociology , 49 (4), 101-132. Knight, P., & Yorke, M. (2004). Learning, curriculun and employability in higher education. London: Routledge Falmer. Maxwell, T. W. (2012). Assessment in higher education in the professions: action research as an authentic assessment task. Teaching in Higher Education , 1-11. Storen, L. A., & Aamodt, P. (2010). The Quality of Higher Education and the Employability of Graduates. Quality in HIgher Education , 16 (3), 297-313. Su, Y. H. (2010). The constitution of agency in developing lifelong learning ability: the ‘being’ mode. Higher Education , 1-14.
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