Graduating “Employable” Students
I’ve just completed a new book chapter with Dr. Cheryl Matherly from the University of Tulsa, titled “Higher Education and the Employability Agenda.” It will come out in a textbook sometime this year (Palgrave) on Higher Education Policy and Governance. We spent many months conducting quite a bit of background research on this topic and looked at material from both North America, Europe, Asia and Africa. If you’re interested at all in reading about youth unemployment – sometimes a euphemism for the un or under-employment of university grads – I’d urge you to see my twitter posts!
The first fact which is a bit hard to get your head around is that there are, according to the International Labor Organization, an estimated 75 million “youths” who are unemployed –whether they are university graduates or not, this is a huge part of the global population which is not contributing to the global workforce. Whatever struggles we may have with our young grads, it pales by comparison to the problems facing developing nations or our two largest emergent economies: China & India. Zimbabwe’s graduates face a bleak job future in their economy; about 90% of these youths are unemployed after graduation. Despite the growth of excellent universities in China and India, these institutions educate a small elite cohort of their youth populations.
The mismatch between the high expectations youths have when going to college and the reality that their educational experience does not adequately prepare them for available jobs in their local or regional economies is a disappointment to all actors: the student, the university and to potential employers.
Closing the expectation gap is essential. One way this can happen is for universities in the developing world to place a priority on training and funding career service professionals and creating space within their institutions for career offices. There are very limited examples of such offices in Algeria, South Africa, India, and The Philippines. In most instances, these initiatives are funded with external financing from international agencies.
Here are two references you’ll find of interest:
Asian Development Bank, Improving Transitions From School to University to Workplace (Rep.). (2012, June). Retrieved from Asian Development Bank website: http://www.adb.org/publications/improving-transitions-school-university-workplace
Association of African Universities. (2013). Transforming African Higher Education for Graduate Employability and Socio-Economic Development. Retrieved from http://www.aau.org/sites/default/files/announce/GC13%20Proceedings%20-%20final.pdf