Enhancing individual employability: the perspective of engineering graduates

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Abstract:

Purpose ‐ Employability includes the ability to find employment and remain employed. Employability includes both hard and soft skills, including formal and actual competence, interpersonal skills, and personal characteristics. This paper aims to focus on illuminating perceptions engineering graduates have regarding employability. More specifically, the aim is to explore how engineering graduates perceive, invest in, manage, and develop their employability. Design/methodology/approach ‐ The study highlighted in the paper draws on a longitudinal qualitative study and the empirical data include recurrent interviews with 20 recent graduates from Master's level engineering programs in information technology. Findings ‐ The results of the paper indicate that hard formal and technical vocational skills are considered to be of declining importance. Generally, these skills are considered less important in relation to one's individual employability compared to different forms of soft skills and personal attributes. The meaning of employability is typically viewed relationally and contextually and is associated with the specific place in which one works. The responsibility for managing and developing one's employability lies with each individual. Practical implications ‐ The results have practical implications for higher education and engineering curriculum design related to the enhancement of graduate employability. Originality/value ‐ The results of the paper indicate that engineering graduates have educational expectations that are not entirely consistent with current university practices. The study respondents indicated that the educational program should focus less on the substantive content of the engineering curriculum, and instead focus more on generalist competence and soft employability skills, including interpersonal skills.

Keywords: Competences; Employment; Graduates; Higher education

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/00400911011068487

Publication date: August 17, 2010

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