What makes graduates employable? Perspectives of New Zealand Employers

Year: 2019

Author: Soltani, Behnam

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Although attempts have been made to understand graduate employability from the perspectives of employers, the outcomes have not gone beyond producing a list of skills required by the graduates (Hinchliffe & Jolly, 2011). Majority of the studies have used surveys (Harvey, 2001; Kavanagh & Drennan, 2008) to capture what employers want to see in the graduates.This paper, using a spatio-temporal perspective (Lefebvre, 1991) and qualitative interviews (Talmy, 2011), reports on the ?ndings of a study in which 50 New Zealand employers were asked about what makes graduates employable. The employers’ narratives from three fields of Information and Communications Technology (ICT hereafter), Hospitality, and Construction Management fields regarding what makes graduates employable are presented.The analysis of the findings shows that graduate employability is a context dependent process that is determined by macro, meso, and micro forces and the interplay among them. The employers’ narratives showcased that gradate employability depends on graduates’ understanding of the spatiotemporal context of the work environment, their investment in workplace capitals and their mastery of the everyday workplace practices, norms, capabilities, and knowhow, and their interactions with other social agents in real and virtual spaces in the workplace. Also significant is how the labor market is positioned nationally and globally, and the role of educational institutes and workplace in familiarizing graduates with the workplace capitals and practices. The ?ndings further suggest that stakeholders identify strong links between higher education and graduate employability and in order to be employable, graduates need to invest in their professional identity and capitalize on capitals and practices required for their careers and roles through learning, interactions, and engagement with the local rhythms in their environment. Practical implications for vocational education will be provided.