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Exploring the perspectives of engineering undergraduates on employability and employability building activities

Simon Howell (School of Engineering and Built Environment, Griffith Sciences, Griffith University, Southport, Australia)
Wayne Hall (School of Engineering and Built Environment, Griffith Sciences, Griffith University, Southport, Australia)
David Geelan (The University of Notre Dame Australia - Sydney Campus Broadway, Broadway, Australia)

Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning

ISSN: 2042-3896

Article publication date: 13 December 2022

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Abstract

Purpose

This study was conducted to gain a better understanding of engineering students' perceptions of the meaning of employability and the activities that contribute to employability development.

Design/methodology/approach

A survey was used to take a cross-section of student perspectives at key stages in the degree, and was followed by a series of focus groups to further explore student opinions on employability. Responses to selected open-ended questions and relevant sections of focus group transcripts were analysed using a thematic analysis approach.

Findings

It was found that students have different perspectives on the meaning of employability, with the majority describing employability as having the right skills, attributes or competencies. Employability development activities were integrated into three broad categories: developing engineering knowledge, skills and industry experience; career building and industry awareness; and degree progression and completion. Participants also identified barriers to employability development and suggested areas for improvement.

Practical implications

The study recommends university staff ensure there is a shared understanding of employability within the student cohort by explicitly reframing employability as being about becoming a professional and that students are repeatedly exposed to the relevant set of industry competencies or standards. The study also outlines a range of activities that students connect to their employability development.

Originality/value

The findings of this study will assist university staff across the sector to make decisions about how they can best support employability development in their undergraduate students.

Keywords

Citation

Howell, S., Hall, W. and Geelan, D. (2022), "Exploring the perspectives of engineering undergraduates on employability and employability building activities", Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/HESWBL-05-2022-0111

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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