Academic journal article Global Business and Management Research: An International Journal

Employability Skills and Attributes of Engineering and Technology Graduates from Employers' Perspective: Important vs. Satisfaction

Academic journal article Global Business and Management Research: An International Journal

Employability Skills and Attributes of Engineering and Technology Graduates from Employers' Perspective: Important vs. Satisfaction

Article excerpt

Introduction

The graduate talent market is an important part of the labour market as a whole (King 2003), mass expansion of higher education and recruitment of graduates for jobs previously held by non-graduates make graduates an important part of the workforce. Inevitably, changes affecting the world's economy and the labour market have produced new trends and expectations of employment (Felfe et al. 2007). These rapid, unpredictable and inevitable changes have greatly impacted companies' recruitment and selection of the right talents. Ironically, with an increasing numbers of first degree graduates there is also a decline in hiring of manpower by companies. This imposes a stiff competition for graduates in securing a job. Companies are now more selective and wary in choosing the right talent(s) to be taken in as employees. As such, standards or expectations of candidates' employability skills (soft skills especially) and attributes are much higher now than before, particularly for engineering and technology graduates. Omar, Manaf, Mohd, Che Kassim and Abdul Aziz (2012) asserted that at present, the national and global economies' employers tend to recruit graduates with high soft skills competencies.

Employability is about having the capability to gain initial employment, maintain employment and obtain new employment if required (Hillage and Pollard, 1998). Hillage and Pollard's definition is supported by Pool and Sewell (2007) asserting that employability is "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". These are in line with Yorke (2008) who firmly pointed out that "employability is 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."

It is therefore imperative for graduates to acquire as much knowledge and experiences while undergoing their studies that could equip them with the appropriate employable skills and attributes. The level of graduates' employability would determine the chances of them getting the job they aspire to obtain after graduating. Employers not only identify talents with technical competency but also conscientiously assess intangible skills such as communication, leadership, teamwork, problem solving, decision making in which are vital in ensuring graduates succeed as a candidate of choice and subsequently be employed (Norwood and Henneberry 2006; Tziner, Vered and Ophir 2004). Personal attributes for example graduates' individual personality traits, motivation, emotional intelligence and self-efficacy are also critical factors that employers measure to select the right talent (Mayrhofer et al., 2005; Wickramasinghe and Perera, 2010).

While we can safely assume that engineering and technology graduates are highly employable, not much is known on the vital skills and personal attributes of these graduates required by industry. In addition, not much is also known on employers' satisfaction over these skills and attributes. This study is thus deemed important and necessary to gain insights into companies' expectations and satisfaction of engineering and technology graduates' skills and attributes. This would contribute to a better understanding of the emerging trend in the employment landscape comprising both preparatory and early employment stages at the same time particularly when the war for the right talent intensifies. A good knowledge about future employers' and employees' employability preference are essential to acquire the desired talent (Mayrhofer et al. 2005). Hence, this study was conducted to determine the important employability factors (skills and attributes) required by selected employers of a Malaysian private university engineering (chemical, civil, mechanical, electrical and electronics, petroleum) and technology (information communication technology and business information systems) graduates and their satisfaction of these factors. …

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