The theory of employability can be difficult to identify; there can be many factors that contribute to the idea of being employable. Little (2001) suggests, that it is a multi-dimensional concept, and there is a need to distinguish between the factors relevant to the job and preparation for work. Morley (2001) however states that employability is not just about students making deposits in a bank of skills, Knight (2001) further considers the notion of employability to be:
“A synergic combination of personal qualities, skills of various kinds and subject understanding”. (Knight and Yorke. 2001)
The understanding of employability can be seen to be more complicated than the emphasis that Dearing (1997) has placed on student’s personal qualities, which suggests less emphasis on these qualities and more on generic academic skills. However, it could be assumed that the individual’s personal skills could have considerable bearing on a particular student’s success in the employability stakes.
The jobs market is rapidly changing with new sectors emerging, changing the nature of work and the way employees perceive the workplace. Graduates will have to be flexible and have the personal capabilities to manage changing and challenging work situations. Employers are looking to recruit graduates who fit into the organisational culture and utilise their abilities and skills to transform the company by facilitating innovative teamwork. (Harvey et al., 1997)
According to Yorke and Knight (2004b) employability is seen to be influenced, amongst other things by students’ self efficacy beliefs, student’s self-theories and personal qualities. They highlight that what is of critical importance is the extent to which students feel that they can “make a difference”. This, importantly, not only broadens the focus to include a wider range of attributes required to be successful within employment but also includes the attributes required to manage one’s career development in ways that will sustain one’s employability.
It’s important to identify the significance of self-efficacy in influencing career intentions since the level of self-belief which individuals have in their ability to be successful in the quest of a particular career is likely to control which path is chosen. Individuals will require higher levels of self-efficacy if they are to select a route which is perceived as difficult, challenging or non-traditional. According to Bandura (1997) self-efficacy beliefs are “beliefs in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to produce given attainments”; indeed, “people’s level of motivation, affective states, and actions are based more on what they believe than on what is objectively true” (Bandura, 1997, p.3).
The literature review will look in turn first at, the employability definition, second, employability and transferable skills, third, employability attributes and finally, personal and self-efficacy attributes
1.1 Methodology and methods
1.2 Aims of the research project
The main aims of the research project are to:
- Provide an evaluative summary of the literature on employability (through the provision of a literature review)
- Present a picture of graduate employability to employers
- Explain how self-efficacy has a major influence in the graduate’s employability profile.
- Make recommendations for further research on graduate employability.
1.3 Personal aims include:
- Completion of the compulsory component for the award of an Honours degree in Business Management
- Preparation for employment
1.4 The objectives of the research project are to discover:
- Identification of the definition of employability.
- How graduate employability is viewed by employers and Government.
- The role of universities in graduate’s employability attributes.
- Higher education influences on student personality.
- Employers approaches in recruiting graduates.
- How self-efficacy contributes to employability.
1.5 Literature search and review
Secondary data will be accessed through Library and Information Service using a selection of tertiary and secondary information sources such as Blackboard, commercial bibliographic databases and Internet search engines and directories. Sources accessed and retrieved will be used to write the literature review.
1.6 Source critique of secondary data
The criteria for source critique are authenticity, time relation, independency, and tendency avoidance. Authenticitymeans that the source should be correct and not misleading. Timerelationmeans that the source should be up-to-date. However this does not mean that all old sources should be rejected, as these can include valuable information that is still useful. Independency and tendency avoidanceimply that sources for example should be impartial and objective.
The above criteria have been considered to greatest possible extent throughout the work with this paper. To ensure authenticity, the use of original secondary sources will be used, by doing this there is minimal risk of misinterpretations and there is opportunity for the reader to look up and evaluate the original source. To ensure authenticity and high quality of sources only peer-reviewed and well cited sources have been used. There is however a few sources that are not frequently cited. These though have been included to bring interesting and broader aspects to this work.
1.7 Scope and limitations of the study
The literature search will aim to be comprehensive; however restricted access to primary literature, for example due to the commercialisation of some of the material sought, will exclude consideration of some sources in the actual literature review.
1.8 Statement of the Problem
Which employability skills are desired in today’s local workplace for an entry-level applicant? There is a suggestion from some graduate recruiters that students are not prepared for work. However, through efforts from universities and government directives is it the case that employers and universities have not synchronised the expectancy of what makes a graduate employable? Determining what employers want and matching the needs with under-graduate courses can only be achieved if universities obtain the specific needs articulated by potential employers, and keep up with the changes that are taking place in today’s workplace, and produce a graduate ready for the world of work.
1. 9 Delimitations
The specific delimitations imposed on the study depict what issues the study dealswithand what issues it covers. It therefore can be argued that this study focuses on hypothetical, rather than on practical argument; the picture given of different aspects of the processes of employability will be somewhat limited in comparison to an empirical/practical study of issues of the same processes. A study with a purely theoretical focus will inevitably tend to simplify some aspects of process studied. However, in the process of more or less ignoring certain aspects that otherwise might have contributed to the over-all portrayal of a biased reality, other aspects can be examined, described and analysed with further rigidity.
2 Literature Review
2.1 Literature Review Introduction
Defining employability is a difficult process; as Hillage and Pollard (1998) suggests, it is a term used in a selection of contexts with a variety of meanings and can lack clearness and accuracy as concept. This literature review is an attempt to analyse the concepts of employability in regards to UK graduates. And further exploring the affects, self-efficacy has on student’s ability to be successful in the workplace.
Baruch (2001) suggests that individuals assume responsibility for their ongoing employability while employers provide opportunities for development. This simplistic view of employability is where individuals manage their careers across employment opportunities and organisations, who in turn offer employment as long as the person is needed. Hillage and Pollard (1998), however, see employability as being capable of getting and fulfilling work through the ability to be self sufficient within the labour market, to realise the potential through sustainable employment. Further, their finding from their report for the DFES for developing a framework for policy analysis on employability, found that employability is about having the capability to gain initial employment, maintain that employment and if necessary find new employment. Knight and Yorke (2003), however, define Employability as:
“A set of achievements, understandings and personal attributes that make individuals more likely to gain employment and be successful in their chosen careers.” (Knight and Yorke, 2003)
Employability of a graduate is the predilection of the graduate to show attributes that employers predict will be required for the future successful functioning of their organisation.(Harvey, 1997) He further suggests that graduates will need to be flexible due to the increasing number of short time contracts and part-time work in the work place.(Harvey, 2000)
From the HEIs perspective, employability is about producing graduates who are capable and able, Williams and Owen (1997) state the most perceived graduate qualities are the ability to learn, intelligence, ideas and imagination and communication skills. Billing (2003) adds employers want employees who are “effective communicators, problem solvers and critical thinkers, and can work well within a team”. (Billing, 2003)
To understand employability requires a consideration of the various component parts and the different ways in which it is described and evaluated, the generic transferable skills nurtured through university, through to competencies required for employment.
This suggests that employability is likely to be less about nurturing attributes, techniques or experiences just to enable a student to get a job; it is about learning with less emphasis on ‘employ’ and more on ‘ability’. The prominence is on developing critical and reflective skills, with a view to empowering and enhancing the learner. Employment is a by-product of this enabling process (Harvey, 2003; Lees, 2002; Knight and Yorke, 2002).
Therefore if employability is defined as the ‘set of personal attributes acquired by the under-graduate as a result of their investment in higher education’, then what are the attributes that make graduates employable?
Much of the literature broadly defines employability attributes as: key, core, generic, personal transferable skills, work/employment related skills (Holmes 2001). However Lees (2002) suggests this imprecision makes it difficult to pinpoint exactly what is meant by the term ‘employability skills’. It can be argued, it is where various employers’ needs and individuals’ attributes meet.
2.3 What are employability skills?
Competencies such as ability, aptitude and qualities developed in context that can be applied to an occupation or career can be identified as employability skills. These competencies might develop employability skills as a result of the teaching and learning process in higher education or from work experience. Employers generally see a good degree as an essential entry requirement to any graduate position. It is widely accepted for graduates to be competitive in the labour market, which is seeing a massive reduction in recruitment numbers due to the economic situation; they need to have additional skills to complement their academic achievement. Surveys by AGR, an independent voice of UK-based graduate recruiters, highlighted the following deficiencies in employability skills:
‘Softer’ skills such as team-working, leadership and project management
Awareness of their chosen industry sector; commercial awareness and business/organisation understanding. (AGR, 2007)
AGR state that more than 70% of their members use competency-based selection methods. They further suggest that graduates lacking these qualities, or evidence that they have them, will find it more difficult to secure graduate jobs.
It is seen as one of the toughest challenges for employers to recruit from an increasing number of graduates, with employers realising that the future of their organisation depends on the selection of the best candidates to add value. The CIPD reports that since the 1980’s the number of students entering HE has significantly increased by more than double, but further states, that even with this increase employers still have difficulty in recruiting the types of employees they need. (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, 2007a, b, c)
It is recognized that having a degree will no longer be enough to get a graduate job. There is evidence that graduate recruiters are looking beyond qualifications; they are looking for people with qualities to enable them to cope with the changing demands of the job in an uncertain and competitive world.
Employability has been used as a performance indicator for higher education institutions (Smith et al, 2000) and represents a form of work specific (pro) active adaptability that consists of three dimensions: career identity, personal adaptability and social and human capital (Fugate et al, 2004). At the same time, Knight and Yorke (2004) have put forward the four broad and interlocking components of USEM account of employability:
- Understanding (of the subject discipline)
- Skilful practices in context
- Efficacy beliefs
Nabi (2003) says that employability is about graduates possessing an appropriate level of skills and attributes, and being able to use them to gain and remain in appropriate employment. From a human resource development view, employability is a concept that emerged through the 1990s along with a growing perception among employees that they cannot count on their employers for long-term employment. Employability is a promise to employees that they will have the skills to find new jobs quickly if their jobs end unexpectedly (Baruch, 2001). Prior to this, Harvey (2001) has defined employability in various ways from individual and institutional perspectives. Individual employability is defined as graduates being able to demonstrate the attributes to obtain jobs. Commonly, institutional employability relates to the employment rates of the university graduates. However, Harvey argued that employment outcomes of graduates are not an indicator of institutional employability.
2.4 Transferable Skills
Amongst the numerous listings which identify the skills and attributes sought by employers, AGCAS Employability Briefing7(2003), suggests the most important are: “motivation and enthusiasm, interpersonal skills, team working, oral communication, flexibility and adaptability, initiative, productivity, problem solving, planning and organisation, managing own development and written communication”. (HEA, 2006)
Atkins (1999) questions how transferable key skills are into employment contexts. Often, the skills most in demand by employers, as measured by the wide range of skills asked of future employees, are typically the least in supply, as measured by the skills, abilities, and competencies that university graduates bring to the job.
Eraut (1994) sees transfer as a learning process in its own right, although this may be easier for skills in relation to objects, rather than the ‘softer’ skills of interacting with and managing people effectively. Brown (1999) believes that the learning development, and transferring the understanding of that learning, is most likely to be effective if the learning situation closely resembles the work place. Knight and Yorke (2000) suggest that for there to be a transfer of learning from one context to another, the learner needs to use that knowledge in a variety of different situations. From these comments, it would seem that practice in a number of contexts is fundamental for the development of employability skills and attributes.
Dearing (1997) regarded key skills to consist of four components: communication, numeracy, information technology and learning how to learn. He further proposed that it was essential that these were developed at undergraduate level. The department for Education and Skills (DFES) adds teamwork and problem solving to this list. There are many different lists of key skills, although there is general agreement about the importance of communication, numeracy, teamwork, IT and problem solving (Dunne et al., 2000). These are considered to be generic skills as they represent skills that can be used to support study in any discipline. The possession of some key skills – IT, numeracy, for example, will facilitate the acquisition of subject understanding (Yorke, 2001), as using IT for research will enable students to learn more about their discipline.
2.5 Personal Attributes
There are many factors that cause organisations to change, but in this current economic downturn it seems the main problem is downsizing and redundancy, therefore the graduate will need to be equipped with the relevant skills and attributes to cope with a flexible and perhaps short term jobs market. Employers themselves want graduates who can quickly adapt to the organisational culture, and utilise their abilities and skills to facilitate innovative collaboration. (Harvey et al, 1997)
The CBI (2008) highlights the importance employers place on the ‘softer’ skills that make people more employable. This means being a good team-worker, communicator and problem-solver is vital, and getting work experience goes a long way with a future employer.
‘Employability is having a set of skills, knowledge, understanding and personal attributes which make a person more likely to choose and secure occupations in which they can be satisfied and successful.’ (Dacre Pool & Sewell, 2007)
It is widely accepted that lifelong learning through acquiring new skills improves employability. However despite there being different concepts to analyse the make up of “employability”, the consensus of these is that there are three key qualities when assessing the employability of graduates: These are:
1) Job specific skills: reading, language, and numeric capacity, listening, written communication, oral presentation, global awareness, critical analysis, creativity and self-management.
Lees (2002), Harvey (2001), Little (2001), Mason et al (2003).
2) Process skills: Problem solving, decision making, planning and delegating, understanding business and its commercial interests, prioritizing, team work, and negotiating. These skills are developed through work experience rather than through academia.
3) Personal qualities: AGR states that their research has shown that employers are looking for qualities that include “self-confidence, self-control, self- esteem, social skills, honesty, integrity, adaptability, flexibility, willingness to learn, emotional intelligence, stress tolerance, punctuality, efficiency and the ability to reflect.”
These qualities are very much embedded with the personality type and shaped through life-experiences. Researchers have been seen to classify these qualities in various ways; the common denominator amongst them is that there is a distinction between core skills and soft skills, with soft skills being learned from different experiences. Martin (2007) states that:
“Therefore, it is to be emphasized that an employer with employability focus is looking for an individual with potentials to be realized, rather than suitable skill sets.” (Martin, 1997)
Further research from the UK government stated that:
“Our higher education system is a great asset, both for individuals and the nation. The skills, creativity, and research developed through higher education are a major factor in our success in creating jobs and in our prosperity. Universities and colleges play a vital role in expanding opportunity and promoting social justice. The benefits of higher education for individuals are far-reaching. On average, graduates get better jobs and earn more that those without higher education.” (The Future of Higher Education White Paper. 2003, p4)
The ‘Skills plus Project’ highlights and emphasises the importance of ‘personal qualities’ and their insertion into the model of employability, further stating how these can have a considerable bearing on student success. (Knight and Yorke, 2001, 2002, 2003; Yorke, 2001)
From the work of Dweck (1999) and Bandura (1997), there is recognition of the two broad categories of self-belief: an individual/permanent/fixed belief, intelligence for example, that cannot be changed, and an incremental/variable/flexible belief that development is achievable and even likely. They further make assumptions that students with a fixed belief about their intelligence are likely to be discouraged by failure; this is derived from the belief that failure is a lack of intelligence. From this assumption it could be fair to say that these students may avoid more demanding work for fear of disappointment. On the contrary, students with a malleable self-belief are more likely to characterise failure to a lack of effort, and believe that poor performance should lead to further learning. ‘Hence, it is the learning that becomes a source of self-esteem.’ (Dweck1999. Bandura, 1997)
A range of cognitive, social, emotional and behavioural sub-skills will not be enough on their own, but these skills will have to be integrated into the challenges faced. (Yorke, 2001) Therefore, perceived self-efficacy or capability will play an important role in career choice and personal development. This in turn is essential in the individual’s employability.
Personal qualities are also important in the acquirement of subject understanding and the improvement of skills. “A willingness to learn, often from mistakes, implies a preparedness to tolerate a degree of stress in order to achieve success” (Knight and Yorke, 2001; Yorke, 2001).
The self-construct characteristic of self-confidence enables the individual to have a positive, realistic view of their selves or in situations they find themselves. This characteristic refers to the individuals expectation of their ability to achieve, an influential factor in ensuring personal potential is realised. (Stevens, 2005) This statement suggests that a person high in self-confidence has a pragmatic view of themselves and their abilities, which gives them resolution in their endeavours. According to Neill (2005), self-esteem and self-efficacy in combination is what constitute self-confidence. Neill (2005) defines self-esteem as a general feeling of self-worth or self-value. It is widely recognised that an individual with low self-esteem believes that they are insignificant or insufficient, while a person who has high self-esteem believes otherwise. Self-efficacy on the other hand is the belief in one’s capacity to succeed at tasks. Self-efficacy according to Neill (2005) can be general or specific where general self-efficacy is belief in one’s general capacity to handle tasks, and specific self-efficacy refers to beliefs about one’s ability to perform specific tasks in certain things. Self-efficacy is also sometimes used to refer to situation specific self-confidence. From this, academic self-confidence can be viewed as self-efficacy. (Zimmerman, 1990)
There is a close link between self-efficacy, self-confidence and self-esteem in providing the relationship between understanding, perception, skills, practice and personal attributes and employability. According to Bandura (1995, p. 2):
“Perceived self-efficacy refers to beliefs in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the course of action required to manage prospective situations. Efficacy beliefs influence how people think, feel, motivate themselves and act”. (Bandura, 1995)
He further suggests that there are several sources of efficacy beliefs relevant to employability:
- Mastery experiences.
- Vicarious experiences provided by social models.
- Social persuasion.
Mastery experiences occur when people are given the opportunity to try a particular task themselves, such as work experience.
“Mastery experiences are the most effective way of creating a strong sense of self-efficacy, and so play a vital role within employability.” (Bandura, 1995)
Vicarious learning occurs when learners decide, after viewing the actions of others, what types of actions will be effective or non-effective for their own performance of a task. The closer the others are in similarity to themselves, the more effective the experiences are.
The attitudes and behaviours of other people or groups frequently change our own attitudes and behaviours. Conforming one’s attitude and behaviour to a person or group who can exercise authority or to an influential power, is a sensible strategy for receiving further benefits as a basic social skill in general. Social persuasion occurs when people are convinced that they possess the capabilities needed to succeed in a particular activity. This encourages them to put in more effort and stay motivated in order to achieve success. . Bandura (1995, p. 17) further expands his discussion by saying that:
“A major goal of formal education should be to equip students with the intellectual tools, efficacy beliefs, and intrinsic interests to educate themselves throughout their lifetime”. (Bandura, 1995)
It can be presumed from Bandura’s work that by providing the opportunities for in learning of mastery experiences, vicarious experiences and social persuasion, and encouraging reflection on and evaluation of these experiences, self-efficacy can be increased. A graduate who believes they can do whatever is necessary is far more likely to gain a position and be successful in whatever occupations they choose than a graduate who does not have that self-belief.
If self-efficacy is seen as an idea that one has the ability in a particular situation, then self-confidence could be seen as the way this is shown to the outside world. Self-confidence appears to be something that can be seen from a person’s manner and behaviour. According to Goleman (1998, p. 68) people with self-confidence are able to present themselves with self-assurance and have “presence”. It has been suggested that self-confidence can be either a trait or something that is specific to certain situations. Norman and Hyland (2003) point out that if self-confidence is seen as a trait, which personality theorists suggest are relatively stable over time, then those who lack self-confidence would be unlikely to develop it through a learning activity. If, however, if it is viewed as a position specific concept, then it is possible for students to enhance their levels of self-confidence for any given situation. An increase in self-efficacy should be reflected by a boost in demonstrated self-confidence.
As a sub-set of employability skills, Meta skills can enable the student to expand and exploit the ranges of other skills they have developed. There is an understanding that reflection is a key graduate skill that can contribute to employability, the belief that the employability of students will be enhanced by their ability to reflect on their own learning. Knight and Yorke (2003b) describe employability as being a blend of self confidence and of meta-cognition, which includes students’ ability to be reflective about their own progress.
3.1 Define Employability?
Personal attributes and attitudescan be connected to an individual’s personality and educational background. According to Dench (1997) examples of attributes that are of great significance for employers are honesty, integrity, and reliability, generally fitting in, and playing the game. However, it is essential not to generalise since companies usually search for different attitudes and attributes. (Dench, 1997) Organisations generally put great effort into finding future employees with a personality profile that fit into the organisation, while others are more concerned with finding people with particular job experience skills. (Dench, 1995)
Due to the economic climate and the need for employers to recruit the ‘right’ individuals for their organisations there has been a emphasis on personal attributes and skills. However, researchers have shown difficult to unifying a common vocabulary. Among the most common terms used are behavioural, generic, transferable, core and key skills. These skills give indications of an individual’s behaviour and how the person could function in the workplace. However it is recognised that personal skills involve abilities regarding teamwork, problem solving, negotiation and communication. From the research literature it is argued whether or not that these attributes are taught or increased. There are arguments stating that skills are innate, while others claim it is a matter of training. Nevertheless, something that many researchers agree upon is that service is becoming increasingly important due to, for instance, customer demands, more knowledgeable customers, and increased quality check-ups. (Dench, 1997) Skills are perceived, analysed and measured differently by different people. Storey (2007) suggests “it is about individual attributes and capacities people have for performing certain activities”.
3.2 Who values transferable skills and qualities?
The review of the available literature has shown that graduate employers are looking for graduates with a range of transferable skills: skills that can be demonstrated in selection processes. The research undertaken by Harvey et al. (1997, p. 63) to establish the values placed on skills in the world of work concluded that:
“There are a large number of graduates looking for jobs and employers, as we have seen, no longer recruit simply on the basis of degree status. A degree might be necessary or desirable but employers are looking for a range of other attributes when employing and retaining graduates”.
In the recruitment of graduates, the most common perceived graduate qualities are an ability to learn, intelligence, ideas and imagination, and good communication skills. The DfEE (1997, p. 2) endorses such standards and attitudes held by graduate recruiting organisations, and it further considers that national targets for education and training support its aim of improving the UK’s international competitiveness by raising standards and attainment levels in education and training. To be part of a flexible and adaptable workforce, ‘key skills’ are considered important in the pursuit of achieving these skills. The DfEE argues that:
“Employers frequently emphasise the importance of key skills in preparing people to be part of a flexible and adaptable workforce. These skills are critical to the employability of individuals throughout their working lives”.(DfEE, 1997, p2)
However, the Dearing Report (1997) suggests there is a shortcoming in the graduates attributes, and states that there is much evidence to sustain further development of a range of skills during higher education, and sees ‘key skills’ as vital outcomes of all higher education programmes.
The research information suggests there is an interaction between these vital key skills, Holmes (2001) states; this for instance means that a person needs to have both a certain university degree as well as social or aesthetic skills in order to get employed. The outcome of this is that the big challenge for graduates is to manage their interaction with work and with learning. The graduate should focus on staying ‘marketable’ through education and development so to enhance their employability prospects. The AGR summarise these skills attributes as: it is all about being able to manage your own career and personal development, being a team player, an expert within a certain area, and to possess broad business skills and knowledge. (AGR, 1995)
The development of these student attributes relies heavily upon the Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) input to the delivery and content of the learning process to the student, since they provide a base for upcoming working life in terms of knowledge, and a preparation for the forthcoming career. (Nabi & Bagley, 1998) Educational institutions will be under greater competition to attract the brighter undergraduate, therefore, universities and Business Schools have to increase their competitive advantage through communication of unique characteristics. (Melewar & Akel, 2005)
3.3 How HEi’s Attract Students
According to Hayes (2007), one of the most important marketing tools for HEIs nowadays is branding, since it has become vital in order to distinguish an institution from other colleges and universities. (Hayes, 2007)
Branding itself is not a new concept. Firms’ branding of products and services has for many years played an important role in their marketing strategy. In the 20th century branding emerged as a means of competition. Well recognised products and services created by the help of product attributes, names, packages and advertising have helped the organisations to differentiate themselves from the rest, and thereby created market values and competitive advantages. (Martin & Hetrick, 2006; Aaker, 1991) However, branding and its uses have apparently reached new levels of market penetration and it is the branding of companies that has become increasingly important. (Martin and Hetrick, 2006; Lair et al. p. 309) That a brand is just a name or symbol employed to sell products and services is a common impression held by non-specialists. Today, many branding specialists would suggest that it involves so much more than that. (Martin and Hetrick, 2006) Martin and Hetrick (2006) offer a definition of brand that incorporates the people management aspect:
“A brand is a promise made and kept in every strategic, marketing and human resource activity, every action, every corporate decision and every customer and employee interaction intended to deliver strategic value to an organization.” Martin and Hetrick (2006)
In the 1980s, due to globalisation, the marketing environment was changing quickly. Media was fragmented into new channels; there were rapid advances in information and communications technology and changing patterns of distribution channels. This induced many brand-owning organisations to begin to reflect upon the value of their brands and to deliberate new ways of managing them. (Piercy & Cravens, 1995) The literature has especially treated the challenges organisations face when “managing and aligning multiple identities and images across different stakeholder groups.”(Knox & Bickerton, 2003)
This has brought about different outcomes such as a greater emphasis on corporate branding in order to strengthen corporate profiles, and in many cases a prioritisation of corporate branding over product branding. Moreover, there has been an increasing interest from the academic world in the way corporate brands are managed. (Knox & Bickerton, 2003)
On what basis can one say that one brand is stronger than another? One common measurement is brand equity which identifies the feasibility of a brand to supervene value to the firm or to its customers. This concept emerged in the 1980s and raised the importance of the brand in marketing strategy. Although there are many different definitions and views on how brand equity should be conceived, most practitioners agree that it relates to marketing outcomes that are uniquely attributable to a brand. (Keller, 2003) Aakers’ definition of brand equity is one of the most cited and well known. (Park & Srinivasan, 1994) He defines it as:
“A set of brand assets and liabilities linked to a brand, its name and symbol that add to or subtract from the value provided by a product or service to a firm and/or to that firm´s customers”. (Aaker, 1991)
In this definition, Aaker highlights that a brand also can be a liability and subtract value if not managed in the right way. Aspects of brand equity include brand loyalty, brand awareness, brand associations, perception of quality and other proprietary brand assets. The last aspect refers to the firm’s patents and trademarks. (Aaker, 1991)
3.4 Influencing Personality
Influences that have an impact on the student’s personality and career development include the interactions of society, parents and education. Managing these influences can help the individual improve their employability and career. Entering into higher education is therefore based on awareness and a career move planned by the individual in order to reach future goals and improve the employability. (Stewart & Knowles, 2001)
3.5 Higher Education influences on Personality
Higher education institutions (HEIs) have during the last decades been extensively pressured to offer students courses that are in line with the skills and attributes requested by their future employers. Nevertheless, the education itself cannot be seen as an absolute preparation for the students’ future career. It is rather a question of combining an education with key personal skills. Regarding graduate students, a competitive edge is often created by those who are willing to put effort into developing the skills demanded from future employers. (Nabi & Bagley, 1998) In order to unite students and companies and make them appreciate the possibilities they have in store for each other, HEIs play an important role. They can initiate contact with companies and develop existing partnerships, which can be beneficial for all parties. (Stewart & Knowles, 2001) Early contact with companies during higher education can be very beneficial for students, since they have the possibility early on to realise what kind of skills they need and how these will be valued in the workplace. This is also a great advantage for companies which are able to market their brand among students (Nabi & Bagley, 1998; Metachalfe, 2006) and therefore to a greater extent attract new talents. (Nabi & Bagley, 1998)
3.6 Employability and Higher Education: Key issues
There is much research on employability with many explanatory models it but Harvey (2003) suggests that ‘employability itself remains a debatable concept open to an excess of interpretations and this can make the task of programme of study development particularly difficult’. (Harvey, 2003, p5)
Graduate employability is widely accepted to be an important concern for HEi’s, McNair (2003) explains his reasoning as:
“Because of the changing nature of the graduate labour market, mass participation in HE, pressures on student finance, competition to recruit students and expectations of students, employers, parents and government (expressed in quality audit and league tables)”. (McNair, 2003)
This suggests that it is in the interest of HE institutions to provide students with the skills and attributes to become employable, and not just as providers of skill related education, Dearing (1997) further highlighted the need for skilled, motivated and trained graduates who can compete in the economies of the world.
However, are universities really offering students education that is coherent with what employers are looking for? Communication between the universities and the employers is likely to increase the likelihood that employer requests are met. Employers might though perceive certain skills in various ways, which is important to bear in mind (AGR, 1995).
Assigning an alumni advisory board can be a step in the right direction when trying to decrease the differences between what educations at universities offer and what employers are actually demanding when hiring students. Universities should assess that the education they offer students are in line with what the labour market demands, which in turn will enable improvements. Moreover, assessments should be carried out regarding who hires the students and how well they perform at work. Penrose (2002) recommends universities appoint an alumni advisory board to deal with these issues, since alumni can provide valuable external information for low effort and low costs. (Penrose, 2002)
3.7 Employability through Career Development Learning
The enhancement of employability has attracted much research; how HE can influence the student development in its education programmes, following an extensive review of the provision of HE education, Little (2004) concluded that while:
“International concern that higher education should enhance graduate employability, there is little evidence of systematic thinking about how best to do it, let alone any model that can be badged as ‘best practice’ and adopted wholesale”. (Little, 2004: 4)
The UK government has introduced initiatives and programmes in an attempt to produce and promote the development of graduate skills; these have included projects to develop key and transferable skills. Stanbury (2005) defines career education as:
“Those formal processes that empower individuals to identify develop and articulate the skills, qualifications, experiences, attributes and knowledge that will enable them to make an effective transition into their futures and manage their careers as lifelong learners, with a realistic and positive attitude”. (Stanbury, 2005, p2)
It is important for students to be in the position of being employable by being equipped with the necessary skills for graduate employment. The CBI (2006), however, criticised HE institutions for being slow in recognising how the job market has changed and then producing graduates who are equipped to fulfil the graduate employment vacancies.
The government policy of engaging 50% of 18 to 30year olds into HE by 2010 will have a profound impact on the amount of graduates in the labour market all looking for graduate vacancies. This expansion will raise concerns that the increase in the number of graduates may not be synchronised with the rise in demand for their skills and qualifications from graduate recruiters. This concern was expressed:
‘The fit between the supply of graduates and employers’ demand for their knowledge and skills clearly falls some way short of ideal’. (Purcell et al, 2005, p16)
The AGR (2007) report suggests that there is still a growing demand for graduates even with the increasing numbers leaving HE establishments; however the AGR does raise issues about the requirements of employers and what skills graduates are being equipped with. It is therefore important for graduates to be fully prepared to take on the challenges of the competitive jobs market in an increasingly challenging commercial environment with increasing number of students.
3.8 Recruitment Strategies
“Recruitment is the process of seeking and attracting a collection of people from which candidates for job vacancies can be chosen” (Analoui, 2007)
According to Price (2007) there are three main approaches to recruitment strategies: suitability, malleability and flexibility. He further suggests that these aspects can easily become mixed up and are therefore generally combined when hiring new employees. Suitability is important since it focuses on finding the applicant that is best suitable for the job, however, with a rather inflexible approach. Malleability on the other hand is to do with finding people who are generalists, with diverse qualities and an attitude that will fit the organisation’s culture. Flexibility has shown to become a key word for companies when looking for new workers, since people who are flexible and adaptable to future change has become a main source for competitive advantage.
These individuals, or talents, are not easy to find, and when found, they might be found hard to manage. However, finding a diverse set of talents with high goals will undoubtedly turn out to be an asset to the organisation. (Price, 2007) Organisations have to ensure that the recruitment processes are planned carefully in order for it to run smoothly and for the employer to find the best candidates. It is therefore vital also for companies to be flexible yet cautious when they recruit, so the recruits they hire fit into the organisational culture.
3.9 How d o personal attributes contribute to employability?
Self-efficacy can be described according to Bandura (1997) as personal judgements of an individual’s ability to perform and organise actions to complete given goals. He assessed this performance across activities and contexts, with the level of self efficacy referring to the dependence of the difficulty of the task. Bandura (1997) further suggests that self -efficacious students contribute more readily, work harder, persevere longer and have few difficult emotional reactions when they encounter problems, as opposed to those who doubt their capabilities. According to Alderman (1999), motivation can be influenced by self-perception (Zimmerman, 2000). Self-perception can destroy one’s motivation to accomplish a given task based on the belief that the ability to do the task is lacking; or the motivation is suppressed because of the belief that the task lacks challenging components (Alderman, 1999; Bandura, 1997; Calder & Staw, 1975). Research indicates that students perceive themselves more; the more challenging the goals they pursue (Zimmerman, Bandura & Martinez-Pons, 1992). According to Zimmerman (2000), research during the past two decades has revealed that self-efficacy is a highly successful predictor of a student’s motivation and learning.
Self-efficacy is a performance-based measure of one’s perceived ability and therefore differs theoretically from motivational constructs such as outcome expectations or self-concept (Zimmerman, 2000). Frequently, the terms self-efficacy and self concept are misunderstood to have the same meaning. Self-efficacy pertains to one’s perceived abilities to accomplish a specific task, whereas self concept is a composite look at oneself, believed to have been formed from one’s experiences and accepted evaluations from family and / or friends. Self-concept and self-efficacy may both be used outside the context of learning (Bandura, 1997; Zimmerman, 2000). The role self-efficacy plays in one’s motivation and attitude towards learning is an important one, having influence on one’s performance (Bandura, 1997). When looking at learning, many learners feel they have to be risk-takers because their self is put before others to perform. Those with low self-efficacy perceive tasks of difficulty as threats; these are people that dwell on their deficiencies and remember the obstacles they encounter when pursuing challenging tasks. There is a reason for connecting the concept of self-efficacy with the motivation to learn an additional language. For students to be able to focus on the task of learning with all their might and determination, they must have a healthy view of themselves as learners.
Although prior successes combined with other general measures of one’s ability are considered exemplary predictors of achievement, (Zimmerman, 2000) many studies suggest that self-efficacy beliefs add to the predictability of these measures. One such study was that of students’ self-monitoring. The findings pointed to the fact that the efficacious students monitored their working time more effectively and were more persistent. The study also indicated that the more efficacious students were better at solving problems than inefficacious students of equal aptitude (Zimmerman, 2000).
Zimmerman & Bandura (1994) analytic study for writing, found that self-efficacy for writing was a considerable predictor of college students’ standards for the quality of writing measured as self-satisfying. The self-efficacy beliefs also motivated the students’ use of learning strategies. According to Zimmerman there was a substantial relation between efficacy beliefs and strategy use across the grade levels being studied.
“The greater the motivation and self-regulation of learning in students with a high self-efficacy – the higher the academic achievement according to a range of measures.” (Zimmerman, 2000, p. 88)
Concerning the effects of perceived self-efficacy on persistence, research has shown that it influences the learner’s skill acquisition by increasing persistence (Zimmerman, 2000). Observably, self-efficacy plays a central role in motivation, persistence and academic achievement. Zimmerman (2000) further found significant evidence of the validity of self-efficacy beliefs and their influence on a student’s method of learning and motivational process.
4.1 Employability summary
The literature shows a general consensus that implementing training strategies into the under-graduate curriculum for employability is important for both general education and more particularly for any future employment. One of the chief problems facing the employability programme is the inconsistency between what both academics and government view HE to be for.
Programme designed to enhance employability can benefit both the enhancement of employability and as an influence in educating students. It can promote knowledge and understanding in the given subject, develop specific and key skills, encourage self-efficacy beliefs, and improve both strategic thinking and reflection
The development of these dimensions through curriculum programmes, other student experiences will encourage the development of the self, for good citizenship and more important life long learning.
4.2 How graduates can express employability attributes
The initial findings of this work indicate that many graduates are perceived to have developed attributes relevant to employability which can further their prospects in the jobs market, however because of the constant change of job demands due to emerging markets and employer needs to review how jobs are performed it is necessary for the graduate to posses a broad and highly skilled range of skills which can be used in the work place and positively contribute to innovative teamwork.
Further due to the changing nature of work, an increased importance is placed on individuals to continually bring up to date their knowledge, skills, and abilities in the framework of lifelong learning.
Graduates now entering the jobs market are in the situation where job change is the norm rather than a job for life, it is therefore important for graduates to ensure that the skills they acquire are easily transferred from one job to another. This correlates with the notion of enhanced employability, and knowledge of these skills will help the graduate in their future careers.
Helping both graduates and employees, universities have developed lists of graduate attributes that employers recognise should be in the curriculum, The creation of these lists should help distinguish the perceived qualities universities argue graduates have and what employers need.
4.3 Role of self-efficacy in employment stakes
The research suggested that what makes a good student also makes a good employee, the attributes of understanding, efficacy beliefs and meta-cognition. The ability to overcome failure stems from the student’s self-image and self-confidence, the efficacy beliefs is to do with how the individuals’ self-confidence and self image allows them to cope with such failure. Students with strong efficacy beliefs regard failure as an opportunity to improve their performance. Individuals with weak efficacy beliefs see failure as a result of their lack of intelligence.
A person’s motivation to act is influenced by their supposed abilities and skills with respect to the area of activity. Therefore students’ perceptions of their abilities to organise and take action on these tasks to produce the course of action required, emotive conditions and actions are based more on what they believe than on what is objective.
Self-efficacy has proven to be responsive to improvements in students’ methods of learning and analytical of attainment outcomes. This confirms the students’ self-beliefs about academic capabilities do play a vital role in their motivation to realize. It is accepted that core skills and technical knowhow is no longer sufficient on its own for employment. There is a need for generic employability skills, such as communication, critical thinking and innovative team working to be successful in the chosen career, enabling adaptive and flexible approach to occupational situations.
4.4 Closing statement
With the government pushing for 50% of under 30 year olds to be in higher education by 2010, preparation for the world of work has to encompass a much broader range of skills and capabilities than it used to. This expectation of greater numbers in higher education will obviously lead to an increase in graduate recruits in what is currently a shrinking jobs market. The implication of this, will be for students to develop their attributes throughout their education to be competitive in the workplace. It is further assumed that the current and future employment market requires graduates to be equipped with a range of skills both generic and academic subject based. Applicants need to be able to demonstrate their core transferable skills in addition to their academic success. Students and graduates need to be willing to develop their personal and professional skills relevant for the world of work to improve their chances of employment.