DOES HAVING A DEGREE MAKE YOU EMPLOYABLE?

DOES HAVING A DEGREE MAKE YOU EMPLOYABLE?

Ann-Marie Golding-McLeggon

 

According to York 2006 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. Employability is not just about getting a job. In addition, while in recent times in Jamaica the focus has been on vocational skill certification; a student does not automatically become employable because he is on a vocational course. Employability is more than just about developing attributes, techniques or experience just to enable a student to get a job, or to progress within a current career. It is about learning and the emphasis is less on ‘employ’ and more on ‘ability’. In essence, the emphasis is on developing critical, reflective abilities, with a view to empowering and enhancing the learner. (Harvey, n.d.). With all the knowledge skills and attitudes that can be achieved when one is involved in studies at the tertiary level, the million dollar question remains: Does having a degree make you employable

job ad 1

It is extremely encouraging when a university graduate passes a place of business and notices a sign posted as the one shown above. It can be argued that many of them will be combing through gleaner classifieds in search of job postings. Their main focus after graduation is to get a job especially because some of them will have to face repayment of student loans soon after graduation. While some advertisement posted will immediately ask for degrees and years of experience, there are those that will be phrased just like the one stated below. It is important to note that despite the fact that the positions being offered are graduate positions there is no mention in the advertisement that the applicant needs to possess any tertiary level qualification.

job opportunities

It is my opinion that the actual skill set mentioned is the employer’s main area of focus. Notwithstanding it is evident that the basic qualification required to apply for any of these positions would have been a Bachelor’s degree in the related field. Hence it is highly likely that all applicants would possess at least that level of qualification. What therefore would cause the employer to choose you above all the other degree holders at the interview? In addition if you were already in the field why would an employer choose to promote you above all the other graduates at the workplace?  It is my view that while employers generally see a graduate’s achievements related to the subject discipline as necessary it is not sufficient for them to be recruited. Graduates must have a competitive edge. What contribution can tertiary institutions make in preparing the graduates for the workforce?

knowledge_triangle_transp

There is a disparity in the perceptions of students and employers regarding the type of skills relevant for employment; students assume that acquisition of knowledge and vocational skills defines readiness for the workforce, while employers are seeking to recruit employees who have well-rounded and highly competent vocational and nontechnical skills. The inconsistency of perceptions lies with the value placed on the soft skills. Graduates have been rejected for available jobs because of the unacceptable standards of their employability skills. Some students have not attained the expected competitive edge in their career fields. You may attend as many job fairs as possible and in the end do not land a job because although you have a degree you do not possess the soft skills necessary to fill the available positions.

What does an employer look for in a prospective employee?  What specific skills should graduates possess to increase their chances of being employed? Team Youth Central (July 14, 2016) in a document entitled employability skills outlined eight skills that they have found in a research they conducted. These are communication, teamwork, problem solving, initiative and enterprise, planning and organizing, self management, learning and technology. Harvey (n.d.) has emphasized dependability as another employability skill deemed very important by employers.  Team Youth Central is of the view that although the eight most commonly requested soft skill mentioned by employers are not taught by the formal curriculum in most university faculties, the opportunity exists for students to develop them throughout their course of study.

Students are given ample opportunities to develop their communication skills while writing assignments and reports, blogging or using social media and making oral presentations as part of their studies. Students can also improve these skills volunteering in school and community projects. Teamwork can be developed while doing group assignments as part of your studies as well as joining local sporting teams. Here at the University of the West Indies students also participate in performing arts groups as well as several other civic organizations.  Colleagues I cant attest to your experience studying at the tertiary level but as for me I have been practicing problem solving skills since my first week of undergraduate studies. Doing research assignments as part of our studies and talking to other people about how they solved the problems they faced are ways in which student can develop problem solving skills. If you need more help problem solving courses are offered.  Students can take the initiative and enroll themselves in these courses in order to improve themselves. Students can gain useful skills in initiative and enterprise by approaching organizations and businesses about work placements or internships.  In addition there is a new focus on entrepreneurship. Implementing entrepreneurship as a compulsory course in all programs at the university level should help to alleviate the problem of initiative and enterprise. Developing a study timetable and sticking to it, managing your time around work, study and family commitments, helping to organize a school or community event are ways in which we can improve our planning and organizing skills. Arguably, Self-management remains a major problem for many at this level of study. Students continue to fail courses, many because they fail to manage their time and meet the necessary deadlines. It can also be argued that learning and technology are skills that all university students should be au fait with in this technological age, however employers are continue to list them as two of the employability skills that are lacking in their employees.

            Having read several articles and reports addressing the issue of employability and tertiary education, I can empathize with employers who are of the view that tertiary students are not adequately prepared for the workplace. Whereas I do agree that having a university degree or exposure to vocational studies does not make you automatically employable I strongly believe that the entire university experience prepares you for the workforce. While i believe that there is more that universities can do as a part of their formal curriculum to help graduates to be more employable; the onus is on the students to ensure that they possess the requisite skills.If students employ their learning skills in such a way that they utilize every opportunity to adapt the skills to which they are exposed both formally and informally and transfer the skills acquired in a meaningful way they can acquire and maintain their desired jobs if the position is available.

References

              Bothwell, E. (2015, November 12). Employability: which university is doing the best by its students? Retrieved July 14, 2016, from Times Higher Education World University Rankings: https://www.timeshighereducation.com/features/employability-which-university-is-doing-the-best-by-its-students#

Harvey, K. L. (n.d.). East Baltimore pipeline: Job readiness training curriculum.

Professional Training Systems, Inc.

Youth Central. (2016, July 14). Employability Skills. Retrieved July 15, 2016, from Youth Central: Life from every angle: http://www.youthcentral.vic.gov.au/jobs-careers/planning-your-career/employability-skills

DOES HAVING A DEGREE MAKE YOU EMPLOYABLE?

Higher education contributes to a country’s economic development

Which of these statements do you agree with?

  • Higher education is all about personal growth and sacrifice
  • Higher education ensures that you will have a better paying job
  • Higher education contributes to a country’s economic development.

If you say all of the above or may just select point A& B, that’s ok it’s your opinion.

The benefits of higher education can be written in volumes, however for the purpose of this article the aim is to concentrate on the impact that higher education has on the economic development of a country.

One of the most eye opening experiences for me is whilst doing the course, management o f school finances.  We had to examine the education section in the vision 2030 report and I came to the realization that education is an expensive business. Additionally, I recognize the role education plays on the development of a country’s economy.

Albeit the government has spent extensively on education, there has been a shift on the importance of higher education and the country’s economic development. In essence higher education is placed on the back burner and more emphasis is being placed on early childhood education.  According to a report done by the task force of higher education (2000),

During the past two or three decades, however, attention has focused on primary education, especially for girls. This has led to a neglect of secondary and tertiary education, with higher education in a perilous state in many, if not most, developing countries. With a few notable exceptions, it is underfunded by governments and donors. As a result, quality is low and often deteriorating, poorly regulated, and sometimes corrupt. while access remains limited. Higher education institutions (and whole systems) are politicized, We believe that a more balanced approach to education at all levels is needed. The focus on primary education is important, but an approach that pursues primary education alone will leave societies dangerously unprepared for survival in tomorrow’s world.(pg. 16).

In support, Kimenyi (2011) suggests that the low emphasis placed on higher education is because there has been a general under-appreciation of the contribution of higher education to development.

How do we refocus the stakeholders and the policy shakers to balance the equilibrium? Yes early childhood education is as important in that if a child does not receive the right foundation it’s unlikely that he or she will matriculate to a higher education institution.  While on the other hand, if the there is a refocus on higher education, allowing more individuals to have access, isn’t there a higher probability of economic development.

Literature Perspective

Kimenyi(2011) in his bid to proclaim that higher education contributes to a nations economic development, shared a very relevant point. In summarizing, he said that, for economic development to be actualized there must be an improvement in the productivity of the workers. He further went on to posit that, improvements in productivity involve innovations of new production techniques and products as well as the capacity to adapt existing technologies such that total factor productivity increases. How is this process achieved, through Higher education. It is believed that, in the generation of new knowledge and techniques helps to increase productivity.  Notwithstanding, even for the most traditional economies, increasing productivity involves implementing better ways of production either through innovation or acquisition and imitation of existing technologies.

Additionally, Kimenyi(2011) stated that “As the world’s economies have become more sophisticated, increasingly higher levels of education have become necessary for growth”.

 

Empirical Support  

One specific channel through which higher education can spur development is research and development. Gains in knowledge and technological adaption boost productivity and create spillovers. Lederman and Maloney (2003) use dynamic panel estimation for a growth regression study of ninety-nine countries with 5-year averaged data for the period 1975–2000. The results show a 78% rate of return to research and development investment. In addition, the results show that the return is higher for less developed countries and for countries with larger natural resource endowments. King (2004), using a comparative approach, shows a positive and non-linear relationship between research citation intensity and per capita GDP. He suggests that sustainable growth requires generation of new knowledge, which can only be imported in exchange for natural resources for a limited period of time. Thus, domestic higher education becomes necessary at some point in a country’s development path.( as cited in Kimenyi,2011). In essence, charting the countries growth and development hinges mainly on the knowledge gained through higher education.

Institutions offering higher education are now being forced to be relevant to meet the demands of the workforce and thus creating individuals that are abreast of the demands that drives change in the economy. The old way of doing things is quickly becoming obsolete, when you are exposed to higher education the onus is on the individuals to effect change and for the most part change drives productivity and productivity drives profit.

Moreover, the task force on higher education and society (TFHES) (2000) gave a summation of how higher education supports development. These were: Income growth, increasingly relevant skills, expanding choices, and enlightened leaders. All the areas were expounded on, however these two areas beckoned to me.

Income growth.: The vitalitv of higher education is a fundamental-and increasingly important-determinant of a nation’s position in the world economy. It contributes to labor productivity, entrepreneurial energy, and quality of life; enhances social linked to the character of higher education mobility; encourages political participation; strengthens civil society; and promotes democratic governance. It does this by creating public goods such as new knowledge-a catalyst for rapid development and by providing a safe space for the free and open discussion of the values that define the character of a nation’s development. Economic growth is a powerful determinant of poverty alleviation and improvements in people’s lives. Higher education’s contribution to growth, therefore, means better living standards for people at all levels of a society. (TFHES, 2000. P. 92)

Enlightened leaders: Higher education can give leaders the confidence, flexibility, breadth of knowledge, and technical skills needed to effectively confront the economic and political realities of the twenty first century. It also generates cadres of well trained teachers for all levels of the education system. (TFHES, 2000. P. 92)

As we continue to partake of the ultimate sacrifice to attain higher education may we also recognize the bigger picture. Yes we are here mainly for the increase in income and self actualization but the reality is we are also contributing to the development of the Country’s economy. My charge to everyone , let us not sit on the knowledge we have garnered but let us become agents of transformation in the education system, to create an environment that is conducive to learning and reflective of our learning.

 

Reference

Kimenyi, M. S. (2011). Contribution of Higher Education to Economic Development: A Survey of International Evidence. Journal Of African Economies20iii14-49.Retrieved from

Task Force on Higher Education and Society. (2000). Higher education in developing countries: Peril and promise. Washington, DC: World Bank.

Higher education contributes to a country’s economic development

Higher Learning, Low Pay

In the article Higher Learning, Low Pay published in the Gleaner on January 5, 2014, the writer sought to highlight that an increasing number of Jamaicans have achieved Masters and Doctorate degrees unfortunately this has not resulted in increased salary. A social and economic survey conducted by the Planning Institute of Jamaica shows that 15,460 Jamaicans earned graduate degrees in 2012 approximately 3% than it was the year (2011)before (Planning Institute of Jamaica, 2012).b.png

Why do people pursue higher degrees?

It is the perception of many that in addition to increased salary there should be opportunities for advancement in career. “The most measured benefit of higher education is of course graduate salaries and improved employ-ability” (Benefits of Higher Education, 2015).
c.png

Views of employees after pursuing higher education

According to the article some employees were frustrated since despite acquiring higher education, salaries remains the same in most cases and the possibility of advancing in the organization that they work appears slim.

 

 

t.png

                          Simone Carter has a Master of Science in public health from the University of                                             Technology (UTech) and believes her study was a waste of time as her employer has                               not recognised her achievement.

                        “It seems like a waste to sit in my current job that I was already overqualified for in                                 the first place. Promotion is highly unlikely … it’s a first come, first serve thing in my                              organisation,” she vented.

Some graduates believe that although the salaries have not increased nor do they readily received new or more advanced post within the organization they work, they consider the education received as valuable.

                       Matthew Williams has a Master of Arts in communication studies from the Caribbean                            Institute of Media and Communication at the University of the West Indies, but he, too,                          has been left wanting. “Upon achieving my master’s, I went to work for another                                      institution. I work in education, and despite having a master’s, I receive the pay of a                              pre-trained, graduate teacher. Unlike Carter, Williams said he is in no rush to resign                              from his current job as the promise of an increase looms. According to Williams, he                                pursued graduate studies for a number of reasons. “For an increase in salary and                                   stability as being a male, I’m expected to be the main bread winner. I wanted that                                  satisfaction knowing that I would be able to take care of my family to the best of my                              ability when the time comes around”. He added, “Education, empowerment and                                    upward social mobility can never be regarded as a waste of time or something                                          inefficient, hence, a graduate degree is worthy of making an individual feel self-                                    sufficient and accomplished”.

Some believe that employees are unreasonable to expect increase salaries and instant promotions. In the article Dr. Trevor Hamilton states that “Employees should be paid on the basis of the value of the job on the market and they should get pay adjustment based on their contribution/demonstrated performance,” he asserted. “Better pay is driven by demand, supply, the strategic relevance of the degree, experience and special attributes.”

On the other hand others believe that graduates of higher education bring new and valuable skills and knowledge and as such should be compensated by employers. Dr Paul Ivey had this to say “What I will say is that persons with graduate degrees would have increased competencies that should redound to the benefit of their employers. It is from persons with graduate degrees who have acquired specialised training that innovative thinking and the ability to solve problems in a systematic way will most likely come”.

The Down Side

I enrolled in the Masters in Education at the University of the West Indies with hope of attaining a better salary, increased benefits and definitely promotion to principal or Education officer. Like Mathew Williams I want to be in a position to better take care of my family and to chant a more prosperous future. While I know that a Master in Education will not be adequate to promote me to senior teacher in my present institution, the qualification makes me employable anywhere in the Caribbean. I will definitely be seeking better jobs at the end of my studies. Working at an all-girls school affords me a very slim chance of being promoted to principal simply because I am a male and I am not affiliated with a certain church group.

The Bright Side

While I may not necessarily get a promotion or even a higher salary, earning a Master in Education equips me with the competence to be a principal or administrator. It also offers me the hope of attaining the job of a principal. Without the qualification I would not be even considered since I do not possess the requirements. Moreover it widens the scope of employability. In addition one acquires the attitude, skills and knowledge required to create and encourage change within the education sector. I will be able to make valid contribution to my school as we aim at creating world class citizens. Finally it promotes self-actualization. For me I never thought the little country boy who was grew up in the small community of Mendez Town, Trelawny would ever ascertain a first degree more over months away from completing a second degree. This idea in its self is a major dream come through. However the most valuable reward I achieved in pursuing a Master is the fact that I am an inspiration to my community, church, school and work place.

My recommendation to new and prospective candidates of higher degrees (Master and Doctorate)

It is therefore important that persons continue to pursue higher degrees as the answer to a transform economy and country in general is education. Let us play our part as we strive to make Jamaica the place to live, work, raise families and do business (Planning Institute in Jamaica, 2012). It is of optimal importance you prove to yourself and all others your ability to reach the highest level of qualification. It is often said “the sky is the limit”. In addition, it is vital that one makes him or herself employable by possessing the requisite qualification to make valuable contribution to the development of self, organization and country.  Finally be an inspiration to those you lead or work with by paving the pathway for them to follow.

Reference

 Elcrema Magazine, (2016). 7 types of employees everybody hates. Are you one?[Online Image]

Retrieved July 4, 2016 from http://www.elcrema.com/2016/02/24/7-types-of-employees-every-employer-hates-are-you-one/

(2015). Benefits of Higher Education. Retrieved July 4, 2016, from

http://www.topuniversities.com/student-info/daily-news024/benefits-higher-education-graduate-salaries-more/

Planning Institute of Jamaica. (2012). In Vision 2030 Jamaica National Development Plan.

Retrieved from http://www.vision2030.gov.jm/

[Untitled Illustration of a frustrated man holding his diploma in his hand]. Retrieved July 4, 2016

from https://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photos-frustrated-male-student-seated-bench-holding-bottle-beer-image37578553

Williams, S. (2014, January 5). Higher Learning, Low Pay. Gleaner Jamaica. Retrieved July 4,

2016, from http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20140105/lead/lead77.html

 

Higher Learning, Low Pay

College Entry Testing Under Scrutiny

University admission is a process of extensively recruiting students into specialized programs of study.  Most Higher Education institutions conduct standardized testing for entry into programmes.  In the United States of America, the College Entrance Examination Board (CEEB) created the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and the American College Testing Program (ACT) as college admission examinations.  For admission into universities or colleges in the Caribbean region the matriculation requirements are also standardized, however they are taken at the end of Secondary Education. These entry requirements into higher education institutions are five Caribbean Secondary Examination Council (CSEC) subjects (General Proficiency Grades I-III) and/or General Certificate of Education (GCE) O’Level /BGCSE subjects (Grades A-C).

Some Higher Education institutions have a longstanding tradition of conducting standardized entry tests to make decisions about student admissions and to predict student’s performance outcomes.  Standardized tests like the ACT are SAT are used to show statistics which isolate the top performers, average performers and low performers.  According to Bangert (n.d.), “the capability for making these types of comparisons allows decision makers to select the most highly qualified applicants for their institutions when minimum test scores are the sole standard for admittance.  Many examples of standardized tests scores are used to determine the eligibility of applicants for admission to general higher education programs and other specific professional programs of study”.  This kind of predictive power of the test scores will foretell student’s level of success.  Herein lays a serious concern.  How can standardized tests alone be used to project or determine student performance?  Traditional standardized entry tests were focused on the level of knowledge students enter the higher education institution with. There was no emphasis on skills and attitudes, which supplement academic proficiency.  The United States ACT assesses pre-requisite knowledge and skills that a student graduating from high school would be expected to know when enrolling in college-level and so do the CSEC and GCE subjects.

One may question the extent to which these test are effective in projecting student’s future performance. Examination bodies in the higher education institutions use statistical reports and surveys to determine student’s performance. The National Association for College Admission Counselling surveyed more than 400 colleges in the United States of America. A report was issued regarding the prevalence of predictive validity studies, which gauge the correlation between admission criteria and specific outcomes, such as first-year grade-point averages. These selection tools/ recruitment exams help forecast future performance but to some extent.  Maritime University Research Unit conducted a study in January 2011which found that the performance of respondents in College Admission examinations is indeed related to their performance in college. However poor language skills of students, low personal standards of quality and lack of ability are some factors that cause students under performance in higher education. Given the nature of standardized entry testing procedures which prove to be broad-based, inflexible and incapable of providing diagnostic information, it alone cannot be used to project student performance. Formal assessment in course content area may play a better role as it assess students’ progress and is flexible meaning it can be readily adapted to revisions. Formal assessment provides specific and corrective feedback related to mastery of specific course competencies.

What obtains now regarding the use of standardized tests for colleges or university entry in the Caribbean is the use of General Proficiency Caribbean Examination Council grades at the CSEC or CAPE levels and passes from (A-C) for A and O level Examination; the highest level passes for both.  If a student has not obtained a One (1) in CSEC  or A for O Level English, the students will be required to sit an English Proficiency Entry Test  at the University of the West Indies Mona Campus in order to matriculate to the university level.  The UWI Mona campus administers this exam to determine if the student possesses a satisfactory level of writing and reading proficiency in English for university academic purposes (University of the West Indies, Mona, 2013).  There may have been students have even done poorly on this exam and may have been denied entry into the university.  Now this is not fair to them.  Maybe these students are “not good at English” as it is usually termed.  Further to that, there are students who enter the university with high cxc or O Level grades and during the course of their studies they are unable to perform proficiently in university.  In the Jamaican situation the reality is that students study to pass the test for entry into higher education institutions but are sometimes unable to truly perform.  If the supplementary assets to academics such as skills (critical thinking and problem solving skills) and attitudes (determination) are not established then students may struggle to perform in college/ university.

The dilemma in conducting standardized tests resonates not only with local and regional examining bodies, but with international bodies like the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) in the United States.  In 2008 a panel convened by the association released report stating that “students’ high scores do not mean they can perform well in college”.  The students’ knowledge, skills and attitudes are important to the acquisition of course content. Relying exclusively on standardized tests is challenging because it does not factor in the key skills that can be applied or contribute to success in life. Creativity and imagination are particularly important skills in this century, considering how quickly this world is changing. Other colleges, after assessing their data, have concluded that these tests “provide too much valuable information to stop requiring them.  If we acknowledge the broader educational inequities in our society, and if the tests aren’t giving you much beyond what grades are already giving, you might ask if the tests are amplifying those inequalities” (Hoover , 2015).

In charting a new way forward to deviate from the traditional method for college admission, a more relevant and creative method of admitting students should be adopted.  Lash (2015) proposed that “an essay asking students to describe their dream project relating to an academic field or intended career path, and performance on an on-the-spot test requiring students to write a creative caption for an ambiguous photograph would be a more viable method of recruiting students and helping them to build on their potential. Interviewing them on situations fosters on-the-spot creative thinking as well as the use of scholarly creativity in writing and projects”.  Therefore with changing global demands in Higher Education, there should also be modifications in matriculation or admission procedures and requirements so as to cater to the myriad of prospective college or university students who may not do well on admission or matriculation examinations but are able to perform competently during their tenure at university.

By Devona Hinds

References

American Educational Research Association, American Psychological Association,

& National Council on Measurement in Education. (1999). Standards for

educational and psychological testing. Washington, DC : American

Psychological Association.

Bangert, A. (n.d.). Traditional Assessment- Two Traditions for Assessing Student

Achievement.

Retrieved from: http://www.montana.edu/facultyexcellence/Papers/tradassess.html

Hoover,  E. (2016,  june). Many Colleges Don’t Put Testing Requirements to the

Test. The Chronicles of Higher Education.

Retrieved from: http://chronicle.com/article/Many-Colleges-Don-t- Put/236801

Lash, J.(2015).Results of Removing Standardized Test Scores from College

Admissions. Hampshire College.

Retrieved from: https://www.hampshire.edu/news/2015/09/21/results-of-

         removing-standardized-test-scores-from-college-admissions

Murphy, J. S. (2016, MARCH). Let’s Ax the SAT Essay. The Chronicles of

           Higher Education.

Retrieved from: http://chronicle.com/article/Let-s-Ax-the-SAT-

Essay/235619?cid=rclink

The University of the West Indies (2013)

Retrieved from: https://www.mona.uwi.edu/

College Entry Testing Under Scrutiny