DOES HAVING A DEGREE MAKE YOU EMPLOYABLE?
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
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.
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?
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.
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