What students and graduates need to know about graduate employability: Lessons from National OLT research

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Research and Development in Higher Education Vol. 38: Learning for Life and Work in a Complex World

July, 2015, 528 pages
Published by
T. Thomas, E. Levin, P. Dawson, K. Fraser & R. Hadgraft

Based on 2013 data, Graduate Careers Australia reported that graduate employability rates are the lowest they have been in twenty years. This paper applies outcomes from a National OLT project commissioned in 2013 (completed in 2015) in response to this employment crisis. This paper presents research outcomes from analysis of in-depth one- hour interviews and focus groups with 147 people from across four stakeholder groups: students, graduates, higher education personnel (educators and career development personnel) and employers. Validated narrative analysis was conducted on full transcripts. Eleven themes emerged: multi-national corporations; competitive sport, athletes and employability; entrepreneurship; private institutions; career development centres; indigenous employment; commercial employment enterprises; government; emerging careers; generalist disciplines; and graduate attributes. Each theme is elaborated in the paper. Based on the research results, in order to enhance employability upon graduation, students are encouraged to: start early, such as in their first semester; participate in work experience, placements and internships; join in extra-curricular and co-curricular activities (e.g. student societies, clubs and competitive sport); and get to know their educators and their career development centre personnel. Based on the research, stakeholders from across groups perceive that employability is enhanced when graduates: actively participate in their learning, particularly engaging in placement/internship opportunities when available; choose a few prospective employers, do their research and tailor their applications; participate in industry graduate initiatives when offered; and know themselves and practice articulating their personal employability brands.

Keywords: Graduate employability; graduate outcomes; stakeholder perspectives