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Students’ perceptions of education and employability: Facilitating career transition from higher education into the labor market

William E. Donald (Southampton Business School, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK)
Melanie J. Ashleigh (Southampton Business School, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK)
Yehuda Baruch (Southampton Business School, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK)

Career Development International

ISSN: 1362-0436

Article publication date: 23 October 2018

Issue publication date: 25 October 2018

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to understand how students perceive their future careers and how university has prepared them to enter the global labor market; student perceptions regarding benefits vs associated costs of pursuing higher education (HE) on employability and earnings; and the anticipated barriers and how to overcome these in pursuit of career sustainability within a career ecosystem.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors adopted a qualitative method using semi-structured interviews on a small sample of 38 final year students from a UK university who were also participants in an earlier two-wave quantitative survey, which was conducted with 387 penultimate and final year undergraduates from the same UK-based University.

Findings

Findings revealed that undergraduates perceive their investment in HE to offer a net financial gain; however, this is narrowing due to increased tuition fees, associated student debt and interest payments eroding earning premiums. As undergraduates progress, they feel more employable from a personal perspective, but less employable from a market perspective due to competition for graduate jobs and the cost/benefit conflict of resources.

Practical implications

The authors provide nine opportunities for enhancing the employability of graduates collaborating with graduate employers, providing a timely contribution to the social, political and economic debate on the funding of HE.

Originality/value

The authors advance career theory via the new perspective of Career Ecosystem Theory by: explaining student career perceptions in terms of how university has prepared them for the global labor market; exploring the perceived costs vs benefits of pursuing HE in relation to employability; suggesting a two-dimensional model of personal and market factors of employability; providing a model of careers advice from employers and universities for supporting students’ careers; and offering policy implications in relation to the future funding of HE and employability of future graduates.

Keywords

Citation

Donald, W.E., Ashleigh, M.J. and Baruch, Y. (2018), "Students’ perceptions of education and employability: Facilitating career transition from higher education into the labor market", Career Development International, Vol. 23 No. 5, pp. 513-540. https://doi.org/10.1108/CDI-09-2017-0171

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

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