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Building employability through graduate development programmes: A case study in an Australian public sector organisation

Marilyn Clarke (Business School, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia)

Personnel Review

ISSN: 0048-3486

Article publication date: 5 June 2017




Graduate development programmes are a well-established strategy for recruiting graduates into the sector at the start of a lifetime public service career. There are indications, however, that public sector careers are becoming less secure and less long term in keeping with overall career trends across all sectors, a trend that has seen the emergence of employment contracts based on employability rather than job security. The purpose of this paper is to explore a graduate development programme offered by a state-based Australian public sector organisation to identify the extent to which it reflects and supports the shift to an employability-based contract from the perspective of programme participants.


Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 23 participants from three intakes of a public sector graduate development programme. Data were analysed through identification of first- and second-order themes as well as cross-case comparison.


Findings indicate that the one-year development programme partially supports an employability-based contract. The organisation could not promise ongoing employment and job security but did assist participants to develop skills and competencies for the future through its formal training and development programme. Work unit support for employability was, however, much more variable and depended to a large extent on line managers.

Research limitations/implications

The study was conducted in a single organisation and only included current and past programme participants who were still employed in the public sector.

Practical implications

The success of the programme was largely dependent on job placement and level of line manager support. Addressing these areas through better programme design and management can support the development of future leaders through opportunities for enhanced employability.


The study extends current research on employability by exploring how a public sector organisation provides support for graduates in a developmental programme from a participant perspective.



Clarke, M. (2017), "Building employability through graduate development programmes: A case study in an Australian public sector organisation", Personnel Review, Vol. 46 No. 4, pp. 792-808.



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