Factors Influencing Graduate Employability Within An Open Distance Learning (Odl) Institution Literature Review Examples
Tomlison (2007) believes that the manner in which students, transitioning from higher education to the labor market construct, manage, and even begin to manage their employability. He asserts that naturally, students have various expectations, attitudes and orientations regarding their future careers. He mentions graduate employability as a factor located centrally in the dynamic relationship between higher education institutions and the labor market. Today, there is a knowledge-driven economy that is obsessed with individuals with competitive knowledge, skills, as well as creative potential. These qualities are required for the increasingly challenging global economy. Tomlison (2007) notes that the majority of the existing literature focuses on the outcomes of students as they enter the labor market in terms of whether they succeed to get desirable jobs or not. This research also highlights the students’ perception of self and identity as key ingredients in determining their employability. Individuals position themselves in the social and economic world based on the way they view their identities. Tomlison (2007) presents a study that examines how students perceive the current labor market. According to the results, there is a marked shift in the way students approach work today as opposed to the way they did several decades ago. Students have stereotypical or conventional views regarding what they consider as “traditional bureaucratic careers.” Students imagined that they would progress to middle management positions in their careers and remain there for extended durations of time. Tomlison (2007) holds that traditionally, students who were of the opinion that they would obtain a clear return from their educational achievements negated the problem of employability considerably. However, the situation is different amongst current students in terms of their views on career progression. Today, the majority of students anticipate a difficult career progression process. They view the labor market as highly risky and flexible consequently, Tomlison (2007) holds that students are looking to take up a flexible and adaptive approach to their careers. Students are more willing to manage their employability. For example, students transitioning from education institutions to the workplace approach their careers with a higher willingness to learn new skills that before. Students today appreciate that the work environment is very dynamic, requiring the individual employee to be in touch with new approaches to working. Students believe that they are competing with other candidates with resumes that are as competitive, if not more competitive than their own.
Employability and skills
Robinson (2000), in a qualitative research, examines employability skills as an important factor in employability. She states that two of the most significant concerns that employers have today are identifying good workers and training them. She introduces an important concept in this area of research, known as the skills gap. The skills-gap is the difference between the skills possessed by job applicants and those needed for the job. Robinson (2000) indicates that while some employees are strict on the level of skills required, others are willing to provide on-the-job training required to carry out job requirements. There is a real problem finding workers who can fit into a job role without further training. As such, employers that are strict in their approach to recruitment of new staff are likely to pose hurdles for applicants who do not have specific job training. For first-time applicants, the challenge is compounded by the lack of experience. While employees understand this challenge to applicants, they also recognize the fact that successful applicants must bear the competence levels to be trained.
Robinson (2000) indicates that creativity is the greatest criteria employers are relying on nowadays. She says that having higher-order thinking skills is more prized today than just academic qualifications. The ability to reason and make sound decisions when faced by challenging situations is the mark of the ideal employee. Higher-order thinking skills are applicable in the area of technology, instrumentation, as well as information systems. Besides creativity, Robinson notes that there are other factors that employees look for in an applicant. These factors are the personal qualities. Individuals must show a high level of responsibility, confidence, self-control, honesty, and social skills. They must also be adaptable and flexible to the constantly changing work environment. Other notable qualities include team spirit, cooperation, self-motivation, good grooming, good work attitude and self-management. Employers know that it is difficult to utilize even the most skilled of employees if they do not have the relevant personal skills to collaborate and cooperate with fellow employees towards organizational goals. In addition, some employees are in positions in which they represent the image of the organization to clients and customers. As such, they must be presentable, well-groomed, good communicators, respectable and able to grasp information quickly. On the other hand, applicants who do not show good higher-order thinking abilities and interpersonal skills are likely to miss out on job opportunities. According to Robinson (2000), students who graduate with deficiencies in these areas face far-reaching implications as they look for jobs. However, she highlights various ways in which employability skills may be taught to such applicants. For example, parents should be involved in setting employability goals for their in-school youth. They should make students aware of values, attitudes and expectations of workers. Supervisors, teachers, and trainers should set good examples for desired behavior.
Undergraduate business education
Wilton (2008) highlights the importance of business management education on economic development. This importance is evidenced by the increasing promotion of business and management courses in higher education. In turn, this endorsement has been prompted by long-held beliefs that shortages in managerial skills inhibit economic performance in the UK. Wilton (2008) states that employer lobby groups are calling for increased vocational education to cater for the increasing demand for professional managers. The article by Wilton (2008) provides a detailed assessment of the degree to which business and management graduates reported development of specific “managerial” skills and transferable “key” skills during the course of their degree programs. It also assesses the degree to which they make use of these skills in the employment settings. This article examines the extent to which the perception of skills developed by business and management course students is equivalent to those employed in managerial work. Consequently, this paper examines how well business and management degrees are preparing graduates for the workplace. The information for the study was obtained through a questionnaire survey that sought to explore the differences in experiences, employment outcomes, and career trajectories from among a cohort of graduates in the UK. The survey collected data from a multi-discipline cohort of graduates that had completed undergraduate education four years earlier. The information obtained includes employment history, job attitudes, careers, backgrounds and experience of higher education. The survey used a set of “employability” skills. These skills include problem-solving skills, spoken communication, written communication, foreign language skills, basic computer literacy, numeracy, research skills, numeracy, advanced IT and software skills, teamwork ability and creativity. These skills were chosen for inclusion this survey based on their use in other similar researches. The results of the research suggest that providers of management education may benefit from increased engagement with recent graduates and enquire about their experiences at the workplace. This interaction may have beneficial outcomes because it may impact business and management institutions positively. It may foster the development of a dedicated skills template for business and management programs, especially those that prepare individuals for managerial work. Similarly, higher education institutions and business schools need to interact more with employers to create employability practices and strategies that aid the transition of graduates from school to the workplace. Wilton (2008), however, highlights one challenge in this approach. He says that when employers contribute to this discourse, their approaches are rejected as wishful and unrealistic. It is also contentious whether higher education institutions should take up the role of pre-employment training on the behalf of employers. However, governments and employers are pushing higher education institutions to promote employability of their graduates. Overall, the greater the amount of management knowledge that an individual has, the higher will be their employability level.
Defining and measuring employability
Harvey (2001) mentions that the concept of employability has been analyzed extensively in research studies. He critiques employability measures that are based on outcomes. His primary premise is that the outcome approach construes employability as an institutional achievement or responsibility rather than the individual graduate’s propensity to acquire employment. In this regard, Harvey (2001) insists that employability hinges more on the individual graduate rather than his/her institution. He proposes a theoretical model as well as a measurement approach to explaining the concept of employability and assess employability development in higher learning institutions. He explores employability as a qualitative item rather than a quantitative one while refuting the use of employment outcomes as measures of employability. For example, he indicates that the proportion of graduates who obtain full-time jobs within the first six months cannot be used as an employability performance indicator. He further indicates that a popular definition of the term “employability” dwell on four main dimensions: Job type, timing, further learning, attributes on recruitment, and “Employability skills.” The “job type” dimension definition of employability dwells on the type of job whether graduate level or any job that marks employability. The timing definition focuses on whether a graduate acquires a job within a given period after graduation (Harvey, 2001). The “attributes on recruitment” dimension assume that employability signals the ability to show desired attributes during the recruitment process. The “further learning” approach to employability focuses on the presence of learning and development beyond the degree. The “Employability skills” dimension holds that employability is the possession of a few basic/ core skills.
Harvey (2001) concludes that whatever the measure of “employability” chosen within a higher education system, it is very important to evaluate its impact. He proposes that instead of putting effort into teaching subjects that have “problematic” employment rates, institutions should consider compromising their education agenda by taking different approaches. For example, they may do so by changing the subject mix, focusing on job attainment skills such as interview techniques instead of developing employability attributes.
Fugate, Kinicki and Ashforth (2003) indicate that an individual’s “employability” includes several person-centered constructs. Fugate, Kinicki and Ashforth (2003) assert that the concept of employability depends on the employment situation. They focus on today’s approach to work, where many people have self-managed and boundary-less careers that comprise more than one positions in different organizations. Due to the highly changeable global job market, and the extent to which people can communicate, boundaries between jobs have continued to become blurred. Survival in this highly changeable work environment, according to Fugate, Kinicki and Ashforth (2003), demands effectivel change management. In historical research, scholars characterized employee adaptation as a reactive action. However, employees today have been characterized as increasingly proactive. Fugate, Kinicki and Ashforth (2003) postulate that employability involves various individual constructs that work together in synergy to equip employees with adaptability in the changing work environment. They assert that employability is a psycho-social construct embodying individual characteristics. These characteristics encourage adaptive behavior, cognition and affect the employee-work interface. Employability is a work specific adaptability that has three dimensions: personal adaptability, career identity, human and social capital. Personal adaptability is the ease with which an individual employee can adapt to the constantly changing work environment and demands. Adaptable people are able and willing to change personal factors such as behaviors, beliefs, and values to suit the demands of the particular situation. Personal adaptability is important for career success and organizational performance. It enables one to remain productive as well as attractive to potential employers in dynamic work domains. Fugate, Kinicki and Ashforth (2003) indicate that the ability to adapt to different situations is a function of individual differences that predispose individual employees to carry out adaptive efforts. On the other hand, the career identity dimension includes the personal goals, hopes, fears, beliefs, personality traits and norms. They explain how people define themselves in different work contexts. Career identity involves making decision based on one’s past and present while providing direction for their future. The social and human capital dimension involves one’s ability to identify and take-up career opportunities. Social capital is an inherent good that is present in social networks. One’s employability is affected by the amount of social capital that he/she has. Employability as a concept captures these three dimensions as they relate to a proactive adaptability at the workplace.
Employability in an open-distance learning (ODL) institution
Silva, Lourtie and Aires (2013) examine the employability skills required for a job applicant at an online-learning institution. The authors indicate that in online learning, there are specific skills required for an applicant to be “employable.” They base their research on the USEM model/ theoretical framework by Knight and Yorke. This model features four interrelated components: understanding, skills, efficacy, and meta-cognitions. They also indicate that the Efficacy (E) component is the most crucial because it has the most significant bearing on employability. Silva, Lourtie and Aires (2013) compare the perceptions of skills that define employability in a sample of teachers from the University of Alberta, and a sample of students who attend a local learning center located at this University. Silva, Lourtie and Aires (2013) assert that in today’s digital society, individuals need to develop generic skills which, coupled with personal skills and educational knowledge should be applicable in the workplace. The respondents indicated ten most crucial skills for employment. These included qualities like planning, problem solving, decision-making, critical analysis, teamwork, willingness to learn, application of subject understanding, and global awareness.
Perhaps the best approach to examining employability in an open-distance learning (ODL) institution is to get first hand information from such an institution. Archer & Chetty (2013) provide an opportunity to examine how the University of South Africa (UNISA), a Open Distance Learning (ODL) institution, regards employability. Archer & Chetty (2013) indicate that UNISA defines employability as a marker of student success as well as the institution’s ability to give qualifications that are suitable to the very dynamic global knowledge economy. Within the UNISA context, Archer & Chetty (2013) provide a conceptual framework to highlight the different factors that affect graduate employability. Just like Silva, Lourtie and Aires (2013), Archer & Chetty (2013) rely on the USEM conceptual framework. However, they rank five other skills as relevant markers of employability in the open-distance learning (ODL) institution context. These are meta-cognitive skills and efficacy ideologies, career management skills, academic and study skills, career management skills and skillful practice skills. This research is appropriate because it was conducted within the context of an open-distance learning (ODL) institution. In this regard, the results obtained from this research have a close bearing on Employability in an ODL institution.
Archer, E., & Chetty, Y. (2013). Graduate Employability: Conceptualization and findings from the University of South Africa. Progressio, 35(1), 134–165.
Fugate, M., Kinicki, A., & Ashforth, B. (2004). Employability: A psycho-social construct, its dimensions, and applications. Journal Of Vocational Behavior, 65(1), 14-38. doi:10.1016/j.jvb.2003.10.005
Harvey, L. (2001). Defining and Measuring Employability. Quality In Higher Education, 7(2), 97-109. Doi:10.1080/13538320120059990
Robinson, J. (2000). What Are Employability Skills?. The Work Place, pp. 1-10.
Silva, A., Lourtie, P., & Aires, L. (2013). Employability in Online Higher Education: A Case Study. Athabasca University, 14(1), 1-7.
Tomlinson, M. (2007). Graduate employability and student attitudes and orientations to the labor market. Journal Of Education And Work, 20(4), 285-304. Doi:10.1080/13639080701650164
Wilton, N. (2008). Business graduates and management jobs: an employability match made in heaven?. Journal Of Education And Work, 21(2), 143-158. Doi:10.1080/13639080802080949
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