Presentation on theme: "Exploring Graduate Identity Geoff Hinchliffe and Adrienne Jolly, University of East Anglia."— Presentation transcript:
Exploring Graduate Identity Geoff Hinchliffe and Adrienne Jolly, University of East Anglia
Origins of Project Financed by the Education Subject Centre (ESC) – part of the Higher Education Academy (HEA) £10,000 secured the services of a research assistant, p/t over 7 months The project ran from Feb 09 to Oct 09 All data collection now compete, an interim report has been written, still working on final paper.
Aims of project Probe beneath the conventional employability discourse of skills, competencies and attributes by speaking directly to employers To test if the concept of graduate identity is feasible – do employers work with a tacit concept of gi. To hear the employers own voice, differentiating across size and sector Provide both data and theoretical framework for evaluating the skills-led approach to employability by HEIs
Scope of Project 105 online surveys answered by a variety of employers, 35% in public sector Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) comprised 66.7% of the responses Sectors included finance, local government, creative industries, IT, energy, construction, marine engineering and business support Survey followed up by 18 in-depth interviews
Methodology (1) Since employers naturally use skills-talk in graduate recruitment we asked a series of questions relating to skills But then broadened this out to ask about broader attributes relating to values and engagement The aim was to find out what employer expectations were of graduates Inevitably we were also told of where graduates fell short of these expectations, but this not our primary aim to elicit this.
Methodology (2) We used the survey to try and establish what employer priorities were And then tested this in the interviews (usually lasting 45-60 mins) We then used the concept of situated identity (of which more later) as a framework for evaluating our data in order to construct a substantive concept of graduate identity
Methodology (3) Getting the employer contact was vital. The RA had worked for a number of years with Norfolk employers and was familiar with all the local business support mechanisms that employers use She used these contacts to reach out to employers both known and hitherto unknown. The survey was put out on Survey Monkey, which was then advertised through employer networks but in some cases employers were directly asked to fill it in.
Employer Expectations of Graduate Potential Employers asked to consider 47 statements grouped by performance in the organisation, team, role and as individual Statements incorporated a range of attributes, qualities, competencies and skills Expectations tested against the standard 3 year graduate development timescale
Expectations on appointment: Honesty and integrity, trust, listening skills, ability to integrate are the highest ability to present ideas clearly, both verbally and in writing Expectations regarding technical/IT skills not as high as soft skills Looking for self-directed persons Note high placing of cultural/social awareness And low placing of independent research (but not after 1 year)
Employer perception of Graduate Skills Interpersonal Skills were by far the most valued IT skills taken for granted, but not rated that highly in the overall mix Strongly suggests that time spent honing presentation skills pays small dividends in terms of employability Great concern about poor written communication skills :
I am very concerned about the young people in the job market in general, who are almost illiterate, not being able to cope with writing or interpreting formal written English. It is quite low in the general population of young people and it is not really any better among people who hold degrees. Not only that, but they are not concerned about it and do not appreciate what a heavy overhead it is for a manager to have to check each and every piece of written work that is done because it is rarely fit for purpose. This is a serious deficit in the skills of young people and when I talk to them about it, they tell me they have never been taught. When people are in their twenties, they are too old to learn such skills, and while they might feel they are able to learn new things quickly, in the matter of literacy, this is not the case. An enormous amount of my time is spent supervising the written work of those who are otherwise very intelligent and able people. It can never be allowed to go unchecked. Not only can they not spell, but their general vocabulary is limited so they are unable to express subtle or complex ideas and concepts, either verbally or in writing. This makes me wonder about the value of the degree they have undertaken and what sort of standard is expected when they are able to become fully fledged graduates with such low level skill in this area. (HR Manager, Local Government)
Concept of Situated Identity The conditions of performativity refers to a constructed identity within a practice and the expectations associated with that identity Which provides the situated context for skills, competencies, techniques which are never just tool-like entities that can be simply transferred but which are associated with a role This is why employers are so concerned about finding people who will fit in: they are concerned that a person can adopt and adapt to an appropriate identity And whilst an identity may be given it is often negotiated, developed and revised: it need not be static Under optimum conditions a person may develop their own identity so that he/she has some control over expectations regarding their role
Concept of Graduate Identity A student identity (pre-graduate) is constituted through the discipline and whatever facets of the student experience a person decides to adopt The student has considerable freedom to explore and experiment with identities But graduate identity has a public role and is largely determined by employers who have the power to hire and fire So unsurprisingly disciplinary background is less important (except for specialist employment areas) Graduate identity is itself a transient phase and may last a very short time indeed From an employer standpoint graduate identity is used to assess potential : will the graduate make the transition from student to employee ?
Constructing GI Based on our findings we conclude that graduate identity is a complex mix of 4 elements: Values Social Engagement Intellect Performance
Constructing GI: values Values include personal ethics, social values and the value of entrepreneurship. By social values we refer to diversity awareness, cultural awareness, interest in the environment Note the high value placed on diversity awareness (as opposed to interest in sport) Although personal ethics is regarded most highly of all The implication is that a graduate needs to demonstrate that they have thought through and engaged with these values
Constructing GI: social engagement An ability to interact with persons across a variety of situations So refers to teamworking but also client-facing skills But interviews with employers showed they took seriously students who had taken advantage of the variety/diversity of campus life But had also engaged with the community through volunteering as well as paid work
Constructing GI: Intellect Includes those cognitive abilities (ability to reason, analytical skills, ability to master detail) that the subject discipline delivers Do not want to see this watered down Employers tend to be a bit conservative and suspicious of non-traditional subjects So a graduate with a degree in, say, media studies, would need to make clear the intellectual value of the degree
Constructing GI: performance The bottom line for any employer – especially SMEs who want it sooner than later But employers use values/engagement/intellect to judge whether a person can perform because examples of non-academic performance are difficult for a recent graduate to evidence If a graduate relies solely on his/her history of performance (e.g. through work experience) this is a risky strategy and also unnecessary Employers understand (better than universities??) that what makes for performance is a number of factors and they rely on a tacit concept of graduate identity to identify these.
Summary: The precise mix of the 4 elements will vary. The key point is that performance is not all. Other indicators are looked for. It is not the case that the world of work outside academia is an instrumental place where the only values are those based around performativity. To cast graduate employability only in terms of skills and competencies is not only what employers want – they are looking for more than that The values rated by lecturers and students (diversity, sustainability, global awareness) are ones that employers recognise
Graduate Identity: a capability ? Sen and Nussbaum have theorised the concept of capability in terms of functionings: a capability enables a range of beings and doings an agent has reason to value There is no set list of capabilities, rather capabilities are related to context Graduate identity could be construed as a capability set whereby students start to develop some of the facets of graduate identity through the student experience That is, beings and doings that range across values, social engagement, intellect and performance
Graduate Identity: a capability ? Both Sen and Nussbaum see capability as related to well being because a capability empowers an agent, it allows them to do more with their lives: capability gives more freedom So if students are enabled to explore graduate identity they may develop employability indirectly through building up their well-being Does this also suggest a perfect congruence between student/graduate well-being and employability? That would be going too far! But it does suggest that the development of graduate identity, along the lines suggested, need not damage ones employability and may often enhance it.