Learning, Curriculum, and Employability in Higher Education

By Peter Knight; Mantz Yorke | Go to book overview

Chapter 4

A research study of employability

Views from the workplace

As described in Chapter 3, USEM provides a way of thinking about employability that is at a sufficient level of abstraction to be widely applicable as a heuristic. This chapter looks at what recent recruits into employment and their more experienced colleagues have to say about employability.

As part of the Skills plus project, semi-structured interviews were held with 97 recently appointed graduate employees and 117 colleagues from the same organizations who had been in employment for rather longer. Some of the latter were fulfilling a supervisory role in respect of the new recruits, others were simply more experienced co-workers. Unlike much research into 'the views of employers', the interviews avoided, as far as possible, those with roles such as 'human resources manager' for three reasons: first, existing research has been sensitive - perhaps too sensitive - to the views of such people; second, the consequence tends to be a bias towards larger organizations and away from small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs); and third and most importantly from our point of view - 'employability' as understood close to where the graduate recruit's work is actually being carried out may be rather different than that as understood at the top of an organization. In this chapter we use the term 'senior' (coded S) as a shorthand to denote those of our 214 interviewees who had been in employment for some time (irrespective of status in the organization) and 'junior' (coded J) to denote those relatively recently recruited into employment.

The interviewers were people with experience of the educational service, some having retired from higher education. The interviews were recorded in the majority of instances, and the recordings were transcribed. Where this was not possible, notes were made of the interviews. All interviewees had been informed of the purpose of their interview and had signed an agreement for the interview data to be used on an anonymized basis.


The informants

Three-quarters of the junior informants were 26 or younger at the time of interview. There was an even split as regards gender, 46 being male and 49 female. 1 Forty-nine had obtained an arts-related degree, and 34 a science-related degree, with 65

-50-

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