Graduate Employability - thoughts

Graduate Employability: Some thoughts on the theme of the seminar:

There has been a big increase in both demand for and supply of tertiary educated graduates. Some commentators argue there is no “over-supply” of tertiary graduates but rather a problem regarding those that start education and never graduate. Others suggest there is a role for policy in providing information and incentives that will direct people into subject areas for which there is a relatively high demand in the labour market. While the concept of employability is a fuzzy one, the European Commission includes the strengthening of graduate employability as a crucial element in Europe’s Modernisation Agenda for higher education. Increasing the employability of graduates is at the core of many higher education reforms, including, most prominently, the Bologna Process. At the same time, companies express that they face recruitment difficulties regarding skilled people having strong professional skills.

Countries need top quality educational structure, content and systems to meet global competition. This puts the issue of the responsiveness of higher education to the changes of the labour market in the spotlight. Skills profiles change at an intensive speed. Employees are required to possess ‘key skills and competences’ and combine cross-disciplinary expertise in personnel teams. To prevent a qualitative mismatch, the responsiveness and anticipation of higher education to this change needs to be facilitated. Governments and policy makers need to ensure proper conditions and facilities for an adequate programme supply. Universities and higher vocational institutions need to implement innovations in pedagogies and reaching out to potential students (including non-traditional students and those already in employment). Students will need to make the right choices when investing in their personal human capital – preferably based on information and incentives that stress the professional relevance of the study programmes on offer.

What will the various stakeholders in higher education (universities, colleges, policy-makers, companies, students and others) need to do in order to strengthen the building up of a highly skilled workforce that meets the needs of today’s technology-based societies? Which new types of co-operation and partnerships between the worlds of education and work may emerge? Are there any best practices from different countries that we can learn from?

These are some of the questions for our seminar. And although formally Egbert will not anymore be an active employee in the labour market, we are sure that he (and other seminar participants) will be eager to share his views on the graduate jobs and skills profiles in the future labour market.