Academic journal article SA Journal of Industrial Psychology

Antecedents of Perceived Graduate Employability: A Study of Student Volunteers in a Community-Based Organisation

Academic journal article SA Journal of Industrial Psychology

Antecedents of Perceived Graduate Employability: A Study of Student Volunteers in a Community-Based Organisation

Article excerpt


The phenomenon of unemployed graduates, who are without the abilities to self-employ and self-determine, after spending three to four years of post-secondary education is an indication to all of us of the challenge in our education at a tertiary level. (Mlambo-Ngcuka, 2006, p. 3)

Research purpose and objectives

This study aims to investigate motivations to volunteer, perceived graduate competencies, extent of participating in volunteering, along with gender and faculty of registration as antecedents of perceived graduate employability among student volunteers and to compare the relative contributions of these antecedences in predicting perceived employability.

In the process, the researchers hope to generate data to support the discourse around graduate employability through providing empirical evidence about what graduate employability is and an avenue in which it is developed, thereby providing students with information to assist them in the development of their graduate employability and moreover, to assist higher education institutions that offer opportunities for volunteerism with information to support and potentially improve this offering.

There is a small body of research suggesting volunteerism is one of the possible avenues for students to develop graduate competencies (Handy et al. 2010; Holdsworth, 2010; Holdsworth & Quinn, 2010; Hustinx, Cnaan & Handy, 2010). However, there is insufficient international or local evidence to show that volunteering positively impacts employability (Holdsworth & Quinn, 2010).

Literature review

Graduate employability

Recent research on the changing nature of work shows that graduates entering the world of work today are encountering a workplace with organisational structures that differ greatly from previous generations (Andrews & Higson, 2008; Brevis-Landsberg, 2012; Chetty, 2012) Modern economies in the 21st century are rapidly evolving, and this leads to a corresponding change, and increase, in the demand for highly qualified, highly skilled employees. The new employee needs to be equipped to deal with the nature, scope and skill requirements vital for this fast-paced, dynamic and demanding labour market (Brown & Lauder, 1992; Chetty, 2012; Gracia, 2009). Educational qualifications are no longer sufficient to guarantee success within the workplace (Chetty, 2012; Cranmer, 2006; Hesketh, 2000; Mason, Williams & Cranmer, 2006). The focus of graduates needs to shift to what former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Gordon Brown, calls employability for life (Moreau & Leathwood, 2006). Embedding employability which lasts a lifetime hinges on the ability to develop skills and attributes needed within industry and much of this is formed during university years (Yorke, 2004, 2006). However, the perspective of many employers is that graduates are not leaving higher education with the necessary skills to impress within the workplace (Cranmer, 2006; Green, Hammer & Star, 2009; Griesel & Parker, 2009; Hesketh, 2000; Tate & Thompson, 1994). Globally, there is a concern that there is a divide between the teaching in higher education institutions and organisational demands needed to obtain a competitive advantage (Andrews & Higson, 2008; Gracia, 2009; Green et al. 2009; National Committee of Inquiry into Higher Education, 1997).

Although there is still much debate as to the definition of graduate employability, a comprehensive review of the literature indicated that there may be more similarities in defining the concept than previously thought and two predominant schools of thought emerged. The first is based on the ground-breaking work of Hillage and Pollard (1998), who defined employability as 'having the capability to gain initial employment, maintain employment and obtain new employment if required' (p. 1). The definition included four main elements: (1) employability assets, which takes into account knowledge, skills and attitudes; (2) deployment, which refers to career management skills; (3) presentation, which is explained as the ability to present oneself in order to find employment; and finally, (4) personal circumstances and external factors, which take into account individual situational impacts as well as the level of opportunities that are currently found in the labour market (Hillage & Pollard, 1998). …

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