As mentioned already, the specific objective is to understand the employability issues of university graduates in Bangladesh. Employability may be defined as the characteristic of an individual that makes him/her desirable to organizations and firms within a country, or across the globe. An employable individual is a person who has the capacity to add value to the organization in which (s)he is working. An employable individual is a person who can apply for and receive a desirable job in a relatively short period of time, should the need arise.
It is, however, worthwhile to review how other people have answered questions about employability. Here we will review different perspectives on graduate employability. These perspectives are from the West – mostly, England. They reflect current concerns regarding graduate employability, concerns that stem from the changes being wrought by the ever-intensifying forces of globalization.
Three perspectives have been chosen for the study to review in this section. These perspectives are:
(1) Key Skills Perspective
(2) Graduate Identity Approach and
(3) USEM Model
The Key Skills Approach
This approach thinks of employability in terms of sets of skills – labelled key skills, transferable skills, core skills, etc. These skills sets include diverse elements including “work as part of a team”, “show enthusiasm and interest”, “learn new skills”, “problem solve”, “interpersonal skills”, etc (Maskell and Robinson, p. 76). Employability becomes a question of the presence/absence of these skills amongst graduate employees. An employable individual is someone who possesses a requisite level and amount of skills from the skills set. Most of the research work done on graduate employability takes a skills-based approach.
The Graduate Identity Approach
The chief proponent of the graduate identity approach c. Holmes suggests that “key skills” are inappropriate analytical frameworks for investigating graduate employability. Instead, Holmes argues that the “employable graduate” is a social construct and an understanding of employability requires a detailed investigation into the construction of graduate identities. The graduate identity approach looks closely at the transition from the classroom to the workplace. The successful graduate is an individual who can negotiate the social forces permeating the classroom and the workplace and, thereby, is successful in negotiating the transition from the former to the latter. In the workplace, Holmes emphasize the research need to “attend to the social processes by which what is taken to be learning and competent performance are construed.”
The USEM model
Peter Mantz and Knight Yorke, two advocates for USEM model critiques mainstream skills-based approaches towards graduate employability. But they do not reject the concept of skills entirely. Instead they argue that employability is greater than the narrow assumption that “employability is tantamount to giving students a fistful of ‘transferable’ skills” (2001: 3).
Mantz and Yorke add other elements to ‘skills’ in formulating their employability model. They define graduate employability as the “possession of understandings, skills and personal attributes necessary to perform adequately at the graduate level” (2001:2). They, therefore, come up with a model of graduate employability that includes skills, but is wider than skills – the USEM model (2001: 5). USEM is an acronym for-
• Skills (subject-specific and generic)
• Efficacy beliefs (and self-theories generally)
• Metacognition (including reflection)
Mantz and Yorke emphasise the last two aspects of the USEM model – Efficacy beliefs and Metacognition. They argue that understandings and skills are components of employability but, in no means, the defining features of employability. They believe that graduates with certain theories of self, who are capable of Metacognition, are more employable than graduates with similar understanding or skills levels. According to Mantz and Yorke, there are two categories of self-belief – either fixed or malleable (2001: pp. 6-8).
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