Full paper Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia 2015

What students and graduates need to know about graduate employability: Lessons from National OLT research (#69)

Shelley Kinash 1 , Linda Crane 1
  1. Bond University, Gold Coast, QLD, Australia

Abstract Content (up to 300 words recommended)

Based on 2013 data, Graduate Careers Australia reported that graduate employability rates are the lowest they have been in twenty years. This paper applies outcomes from a National OLT project commissioned in 2013 in response to this employment crisis. The stakeholder groups of students, graduates, employers and higher education personnel were surveyed. A literature review revealed empirical evidence for 12 graduate employability strategies; surveys asked respondents to tick strategies in response to the following questions. Students – What strategies are you using? Graduates – What strategies did you use? Employers – Which strategies does your organisation value when recruiting graduates? Higher Education – Which of the strategies do you provide for students? Analysis revealed that stakeholders disagree as to which strategies improve graduate employability. For example, whereas the majority of students and graduates ticked part-time work, this strategy was left un-ticked by the majority of employers and higher education personnel and the reverse was true for extra-curricular. “Internships, placements and work experience” was ticked by the majority of all other than higher education personnel; follow-up conversations revealed that they agree with this strategy but do not have the resources to fully support it. Eighty in-depth follow-up interviews were conducted and analysed to inform case studies on topics such as entrepreneurship and emerging careers. Findings revealed that students need to be educated to: start early; participate in work experience, placements and internships; join co-curricular (student societies, clubs, competitive sport); do volunteer work; and get to know professors and career development centre personnel. Graduates need to be educated to acknowledge and act on: less is more – choose a few prospective employers, do your research and tailor your application; dedicate time to editing applications; participate in industry graduate initiatives when offered; know oneself and practice articulating / demonstrating personal employability brand; and remember that interviews are two-way.

Addressing the theme/s of the Conference (up to 200 words recommended)

The submitted paper addresses the theme of educating graduates to be responsive and adaptable professionals. The outputs of the National OLT project on Graduate Employability that forms the foundation for this paper included: 1) A Project Website (GraduateEmployability.com), designed to support & inspire students, graduates, employers & higher education personnel through tools & resources. 2) A Graduate Employability Framework, which is a visual representation of the factors improving graduate employability, accompanied by a ten-point narrative explanation. 3) A National Symposium, with 150 delegates from 21 Australian universities attending a 2-day event featuring student, graduate, employer & higher education panels. 4) Eleven Thematic Case Studies (based on 80 in-depth interviews & focus groups) presenting challenges, strategies & success stories on topics such as entrepreneurship. 5) A Research Report for the Business20 Human Capital Taskforce, presenting data, findings & recommendations based on 700 survey responses from diverse stakeholders. These outputs and the underlying best practices and recommendations will be shared with HERDSA conference attendees to take-away to educate their students and graduates to be responsible and adaptable professionals.

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