Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

Responding to the Employability Challenge: Final Projects for IT-Based Organizational Training

Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

Responding to the Employability Challenge: Final Projects for IT-Based Organizational Training

Article excerpt

Employability as an Aspect of Quality of Higher Education

Employability, or more precisely, the benefit and usefulness of the study programme for career and work tasks, is regarded as an aspect of quality of higher education (Storen & Aamodt, 2010). This realization is evidenced by the many official pronouncements and curriculum guidance services offered to higher education institutions. The Bologna Accord aims to create a European Higher Education Area that promotes mobility, employability and attractiveness of Europe as an educational region (Official Bologna Process website http://www.ehea.info/article-details.aspx?ArticleId=3). The Higher Education Academy in the UK has published extensive literature on supporting employability (e.g., The Higher Education Academy, 2011; Mantz, 2006).

Curriculum design aimed at enhancing employability requires greater clarity in its definition. Mantz (2006) suggests that "Employability is a (multi-faceted) characteristic of the individual.... a set of achievements--skills, understandings and personal attributes--that makes graduates more likely to gain employment and be successful in their chosen occupations, which benefits themselves, the workforce, the community and the economy." (p. 8). D'Acre-Pool and Sewell (2007) describe employability as

"having a set of skills, knowledge, understanding and personal attributes that make a person more likely to choose and secure occupations in which they can be satisfied and successful." (p. 280).

What are the Attributes that Promote Employability?

Relevant subject-matter knowledge and skills are the traditional attributes. However, it has been realized that additional "soft skills" are vital to being able to function successfully in an organization in the present era. Russell, Russell, and Tastle (2005), referring to employability of Information Systems' students, stress the "ability to communicate effectively in both oral and written format" (p. 1). They define the soft skills most frequently enumerated by industry as

"the ability to: 1) demonstrate effective interpersonal relations, 2) demonstrate self-management strategies, 3) work within teams, 4) solve problems creatively and 5) make decisions." (p. 1).

Westerstrom and Westerstrom (2009) claim that

"To be employable as an engineer in today's global market, you will need the theoretical hard skills, like fundamental knowledge of science, mathematics and engineering design, and problem solving skills; soft skills like communication skills, managerial skills, negotiation and interpersonal skills; global skills like being able to work multidisciplinary, with societal issues and solutions on global problems. As well, knowing what working life demands, a feeling for economy and markets, empathy and emotional intelligence are also needed." (p. 5).

These claims are corroborated by the HEFCE (2003) comprehensive research which reports on the main job skill requirements analyzed by interviews with 192 managers who employed university graduates. The list included ability to seek out new information, problem solving ability, ability to work on one's own without supervision, numeracy, written communication skills, formal presentation skills, team-working skills, computing/IT skills and the ability to identify solutions to customers' business problems (p. 13).

The importance of the issue has led to the creation of several general models. Yorke and Knight (2006) offer the 4-component model: Understanding, Skills, Efficacy beliefs and Metacognition. D'Acre-Pool and Sewell (2007) define the CareerEDGE model: Career Development Learning, Experience (Work and Life), Degree Subject Knowledge, Understanding and Skills, Generic Skills (including Enterprise skills), Emotional Intelligence model.

How have HE Institutions Responded to the Challenge?

The wide spectrum of required attributes presents a serious challenge to institutions of higher education (HE) wishing to act on their commitment to the employability of students in different departments. …

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