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Employability skills: perspectives from a knowledge-intensive industry

Chris Collet (School of Biomedical Sciences, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia)
Damian Hine (UQ Business School, University of Queensland, St. Lucia, Australia)
Karen du Plessis (School of Biomedical Sciences, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia)

Education + Training

ISSN: 0040-0912

Article publication date: 13 July 2015




While the global education debate remains focused on graduate skills and employability, the absence of a shared language between student, academic and industry stakeholder groups means that defining industry skills requirements is both essential and difficult. The purpose of this paper is to assess graduate skills requirements in a knowledge-intensive industry from a demand perspective as distinct from a curriculum (supply) viewpoint.


Skills items were derived from a breadth of disciplines across academic, policy and industry literature. CEOs and senior managers in the innovation and commercialisation industry were surveyed regarding perceptions of skills in graduates and skills in demand by the firm. Two rounds of exploratory factor analyses were undertaken to examine employers’ perceptions of the skills gap.


First-order analysis resolved ten broad constructs that represent cognitive, interpersonal and intrapersonal skills domains as applied in this industry. Knowledge, leadership and interprofessional collaboration feature as prominent skills. Second-order analysis revealed employers’ perceptions of graduate skills specifically centre on organisational fit and organisational success. An over-arching theme relates to performance of the individual in organisations.

Research limitations/implications

The findings suggest that the discourse on employability and the design of curriculum need to shift from instilling lists of skills towards enabling graduates to perform in a diversity of workplace contexts and expectations centred on organisational purpose.


In contrast to the heterogeneous nature of industry surveys, the authors targeted a homogenous sector that is representative of knowledge-intensive industries. This study contributes to the broader stakeholder dialogue of the value and application of graduate skills in this and other industry sectors.



This project was funded by a Teaching Fellowship to CC from the Australian Learning and Teaching Council.


Collet, C., Hine, D. and du Plessis, K. (2015), "Employability skills: perspectives from a knowledge-intensive industry", Education + Training, Vol. 57 No. 5, pp. 532-559.



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Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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