Employer Perception Of Employability Skills Management Essay
Purpose- This proposal sets out to discuss the concept of employability and skills required of current UK graduates from an employers’ perspective. The relevance of these skills in developing graduate employability will be examined, in line with the support already provided by higher education, and Employers, making reference to the UK real estate sector.
Methodology/Design- The concept of employability will be developed based on previous researches by academicians and tangible employment reports by government commissions and employment boards. The research looks to highlight the skill programs available to UK graduates from the employability department of two UK universities, and a housing employer. The data will be collected via in-depth interviews with participants, to make comparisons and draw conclusions on what they perceive is being demonstrated by these graduates, including additional competencies they require.
Originality/Value- This research anticipates contribution to existing literature on employability skills for real estate graduates from an employer’s perspective. Discussions related to the programmes available to real estate graduates to help develop these skills will also be mentioned, as an intervention to boost employability by employers and higher education.
KEY WORDS: Employability Skills, Real estate graduates, United Kingdom, Unemployment rate
The employability challenge
The debate on lack of employability has been in the lime light for over two decades. While employers constantly demand for the right skills to meet the ever changing environment, the learning and skills sector is striving to build a better skilled workforce to meet these demands (Martin, et al., 2008), (ONS, 2012).
To meet the challenges experienced from an increasing global market, a learning reform in schools and workplaces would be required (Martin, et al., 2008). This means that students would need to go beyond having basic knowledge of academic subjects, to grasping the significant skills such as handling information, communication, problem solving, and planning, to enhance their employability (Fallows & Steven, 2000).
Similarly, (Andrews, 2007) highlighted the requirement for UK graduates to possess high quality transferable employability skills including the need for universities to offer quality business and management programs aimed at creating highly competent graduates who would continuously meet the contemporary demands of the society.
Today, about 35.9 % of UK graduates are unemployed (ONS, 2012). Of the diverse causes of this increase, a report by the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry noted that more than 10% of skills gap and shortages account for the main problems facing the workforce (Wright, et al., 2010). Therefore, to help improve on this challenge, we need to be clear on what skills are being referred to.
The literature review will highlight key themes surrounding the concept and elements of employability, with specific reference to the understanding of employability skills. The research then discusses the most valued skills from an employer’s point of view, in line with UK’s real Estate Sector. The final part of the review will identify the various supports provided by the employability parties to help develop the skills of UK graduates, highlighting the gaps in these support.
2.0 LITERATURE REVIEW
2.1 UK Graduate Unemployment Rate
Unemployment among 16-24 year olds remains a key issue. (Martin, et al., 2008) Having lost momentum during the euro crises, UK’s economic recovery remains fragile, as unemployment rates have been forecasted to remain high (CBI, 2012).
Previous research by the Prince’s Trust, in 2008, estimated a 10 million pound economy cost on youth unemployment daily. The Labour force data also added that the unemployment rate between 16-24 year olds remained at 14.1% (Martin, et al., 2008). Currently, the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that unemployment between the above mentioned age group in December 2011 stood at 1.04 million, which is the highest recorded number since 1986-1987 (CIPD, 2012) .
Similarly, reports from the guardian early 2012 noted an overall decline in unemployment figures due to the fall in youth unemployment rate by 49,000. Yet, the UK unemployment statistics are still on the increase, as the estimates of youths resulted to a total of 21% between July and September 2012 (Mulholland, 2012). Specifically, the figures reported in London came to a total of 8.7% compared to 7.6% and 6.5% recorded in North Ireland and South east England, respectively (Mulholland, 2012).
The 21st century highlights people as a vital natural resource with vast potentials. Therefore, possessing the right skills has a significant role to play in unlocking these potentials which will in turn contribute towards economic growth, via overall improvements in productivity and competitiveness (Martin, et al., 2008).
2.2 The Concept of Employability
The notion of employability is a subject often difficult to define in a concise manner, due to its usage in a variety of contexts. In simple terms, Employability is the ability of a graduate to get a job (Lees, 2002).
The UK’s Enhancing Student Employability Co-ordination Team (ESECT, 2004) from the view point of Yorke Mantz; a vital contributor to the knowledge of employability, defined employability as:
“a set of achievements, skills, understandings and personal attributes that make graduates more likely to gain employment and be successful in their chosen occupations, which benefits themselves, the workforce, the community and the economy” (Yorke, 2004)
Hillage and Pollard (1998), described the term as “having the capability to gain, maintain and obtain new employment if necessary” (Lees, 2002).
While Hillage and Pollard highlight the capability to gain and maintain employment, the first definition draws on a key point, – “set of achievement skills”. This exhibits the ability of graduates to demonstrate the required set of achievements and capabilities relevant to gaining employment and carrying out the job effectively (Knight & Yorke, 2003).
Knight and Yorke emphasize that students should not assume being employable by simply acquiring experiences from a successful completion of a course/ curriculum, as this may not guarantee employment. In addition, the second description views employability as an opportunity for career progression, and lifelong learning, in the sense that graduates take effective action towards attaining the jobs they seek, work effectively with others, and continually learn from previous experiences (Hillage & Pollard, 2008)
2.3 Employer Perception of Graduate employability Skills
Before highlighting the relevant skills that support future employment, it is essential to identify the meaning of Employability Skills. Similar to the complex nature of employability, the understandings of employability skills vary among employers, academic institutions and government bodies across countries.
Employability skills are often used interchangeably with Generic Skills in most countries, nonetheless, they are perceived differently. In UK, the terms used to describe employability skills are core, key or Common skills.
The definitions range from preparing to work, to holding the specific skills to maintain roles in the organizations (Martin, et al., 2008).
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) sees employability as openness to new ideas, desire to achieve and readiness to partake and improve on performance, staying focus on core skills namely problem solving, team working, IT application, numeracy, literacy, business and customer awareness and literacy (CBI, 2012).
Similarly, employers consider graduate employment as the readiness to work , and the possession of skills such as field knowledge and commercial understanding, which will aid valuable contributions to the companies they eventually work in (Mason, et al., 2006).
A sample of some of the core skills required by graduates can be found in the diagram below, viewed as a process towards sustaining employment (Belt, et al., 2010)
In addition to this, a model formulated by McQuaid et al, 2006, identified three components of graduate employability. They cover individual factors (skills, attributes & work history), personal circumstances (work culture, family support, access to finance and social capital) and demand factors (labour market, macro economic factors, and employment policy factors).
As most employers are heading towards a more global workforce, emphasis is laid on having the right people with economically valuable skills to tackle weaknesses among part of the work force, most especially in the current difficult climate (CBI, 2012). Meeting these global market challenges will also require reforms within the educational sector, which have a large impact on skills development that could foster economic growth in the long run (Martin, et al., 2008). Among other barriers to employment such as age, gaps in CV’s, lack of relevant experience, employment skills are regarded as the most important factors when recruiting graduates (Ofsted, 2012)
2.4 Required Employability skills for UK Real estate Sector
A recent research conducted by a contributor to employability knowledge, uncovered some changes in UK’s real estate education over the past 15 years due to the growing European real estate market. This has led to the transformation of real estate skills, increasing the need for economics, finance, investment and business skills (Poon, 2012).
To understand the skills required of real estate graduates, it is essential to consider the expectations of graduates. According to (Archer & Davidson, 2008), some key skills required by employers include soft skills such as; confidence, personality, planning and organizational skills, analytical and decision making skills, and intellectual ability. The report revealed that most employers were dissatisfied with graduates’ lack of commercial awareness which was noted as a key requirement for competing on a global platform. Employers also noted the absence of analytical, decision-making and good writing skills, passion and work experience.
Further research by Connor in 2009 investigated the value of graduates from an employer’s stance. The findings showed that subject knowledge, specialist skills and certain generic personal skills (communication, planning, analytical, and innovation skills) were of critical value to the employers. As a result, academic institutions are urged to develop graduate capacities, by providing work experience for these graduates (Connor & Brown, 2009).
2.5 Employability Support
2.5.1 Training and graduate recruitment schemes
The recruitment scheme is aimed at equipping graduates with hands on experience, linking educational curriculum to real life practices (Swaner, 2003). A recent CIPD survey revealed that one third of organizations have adopted structured graduate recruitment scheme, which has generally increased in larger organizations (CIPD, 2012).
Findings from the 2012 National Employer skills survey for England discovered that 68% of employers offer training programmes to newly recruited graduates, while 47% provide internship opportunities for graduates (CBI, 2012). The survey also revealed the rise in university tuition fees will have an impact on the number of graduates that require graduate programmes. They believe that this rise will affect graduates, in terms of difficulty in acquiring relevant skills needed to improve their experience and skills. (CIPD, 2012)
Part of an employability skills survey in 2011 confirmed the provision apprenticeships to graduates as a key area of concern. An estimated 46% of organisations across all UK sectors reported that organizational support through graduate apprenticeship will help graduates gain essential skills required to become more employable (CIPD, 2012). The results revealed a moderate support by employers, in the provision of internship (28%) and apprenticeship programs with a 14% plan to introduce them within the next 12 months. (Lowden, et al., 2011).
2.5.2University- Employer Links
Past research justify that university links with organizations in offering placements advocate the shaping of students’ degree programs. Employers want to see universities playing their role in enhancing employability skills, by initiating more programs to increase the number of quality STEM ( science, technology, engineering and maths )graduates (CBI, 2012). As a result, about 63% of employers have developed associations with institutions to boost relevant knowledge of employer skills requirements (CIPD, 2012).
The daily mail news report recognized that one in three top organizations struggled in filling graduate vacancies due to the shortage of skills acquired after leaving universities (Harris, 2012). These companies noted that graduates required “transferable skills” such as team working and good communication skills to sustain employment.
Employers urged academic institutions to spend more time in structuring student’s curriculum to include important generic skills (team working activities, writing skills and spell checking letters) needed to, create strong partnerships with businesses in general (Lowden, et al., 2011). The CBI noted that 61% of employers perceive numeracy and writing skills as priority kills in companies. Therefore, the need for institutions to raise their standards is required for future business growth (CBI, 2012)
2.5.4 Government Support
CBI Reports revealed bureaucracy surrounding access to government fund to support training. About 29% of employers see government support for helping employees with limitations in basic skills shortages a priority. (CBI, 2012)
Despite these contributions towards enhancing graduate employability, a crucial measure to promote university- employer partnerships via work based learning opportunities is significant towards fighting the lack of these skills (Lowden, et al., 2011). However, the latest discovery by CIPD is the need for employers to increase volunteering opportunities for graduates to support their journey into the world of work. As a result, this research aims to provide a deeper grasp into the challenges surrounding graduate employability support, which will be beneficial to curb probable employability skills shortages.
2.6 Conceptual Framework
Some contributing variables towards this research have been identified in the table below:
3.0 RESEARCH OBJECTIVE
The aim of this research is to develop a clear understanding of the skills employers expect current young graduates coming into the work force to hold, including the support that can be offered to boost the skills gap among these graduates.
4.0 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
The research questions are:
What perceptions do employers and university staffs have on the knowledge and skills required for current UK graduates?
Is there an established method used by employers to assess real estate graduate skills in recruitment process?
What level of support have universities and employers offered to enhance real estate graduate employability?
This study takes an Interpretivism philosophy which advocates the need to understand the role of UK housing employer, and other players identified, in filling the graduate employability skills gap within the current UK labour market.
This research will be based on a deductive approach. According to (Saunders & Lewis, 2012:108) this requires testing fundamental propositions highlighted in the research questions and objectives, intended for the study. Prior researches and reports have shown recurring pattern in skills gap and barriers to promoting graduate employability. The mismatch of employability skills meaning have also been highlighted (Lowden, et al., 2011). For this reason, this research hopes to modify past knowledge by offering the reasons behind these skills gap and support barriers, through primary data collection and analysis within the Real estate sector.
5.3 DATA COLLECTION, STRATEGY AND CHOICE
The intended mode of data collection is the mono method design, via interview surveys and action research. (Saunders & Lewis, 2012) described action research as working in collaboration with organization to gain insights, to which conclusions may be drawn.
The interview survey method has been selected based on the trend in carrying out past employability researches, and also to provide more detailed responses from the participants.
Semi structured interviews would be conducted in two parts. The first will cover the sample population of employers within a selected Housing association in London, while the other will concentrate on the employability team in two London based undergraduate and post graduate universities, to give room for wider and more diverse responses.
The interviews will focus on discussions surrounding the research questions and objectives
The discussions would be audio recorded, with appropriate permission, within an estimated period of 45minutes. In addition, secondary resources such as reviewed journals and UK government statistics will be utilized.
5.4 TIME HORIZONS
This research will be carried out using a cross sectional research design. The anticipated time frame for the study is between January and March 2013, carried out in four stages. The first stage involves writing the background and literature review within the first and third week of January 2013. The second stage includes designing the methodology. The next stage covers data collection and analysis, which will be collected and analysed by mid-march 2013. Finally, the findings and preparation of the final report will be completed by end of March 2013.
See the timescale outline below:
6.0 RESEARCH ETHICS
A clear description of the aim and intended outcomes of the research will be made known to the participants. These will cover the following areas below. See Appendix 3 for an approved ethics checklist.
Due to the time frame for the entire research, the research will not be able to cover a diverse view of employability requirements from a tangible number of universities and employers in the UK, to make relevant comparisons. This may lead to perceived generalization from the readers.
The resources required to carry out this research will be provided during my time as an intern within a selected housing Association in London. Through the support of my employer granting me some time off work, I will be able to carry out my interview within the company, as well as visit the university participants to collect my primary data, analyse the data and prepare the overall project report.
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