Enhancing the employability of graduates from non-vocational programmes: The complexities of moving from higher education into employment Robert Ingram, Joanne Brodie, Rachel Mulholland and Douglas Forbes Glasgow Caledonian University
Contents • Introduction • Background and context to the study • The Longitudinal Study – Methodological Approaches • Initial findings from quantitative data • Initial findings from Phase Two qualitative data • Conclusion
Introduction • Employability a key part of the policy agenda in Scotland (Scottish Government, 2007; Scottish Funding Council, 2004); • The value of a degree and how graduates make the transition from being a student to identifying as a graduate employee / worker, has come into focus in this study; • This presentation will explore the different perceptions of psychology graduates when asked to assess the value of their degree programme, particularly in terms of entry to, or facilitating progress within, the labour market and/or further study.
Background and Context to the Study • The longitudinal study is part of a bigger project, the ‘Aiming University Learning at Work Project’ (AUL@W Project); • The project has an overall aim of creating a strategic shift in the development of employability initiatives and work-related learning (WRL) within Scottish HEIs; • The project is funded by the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) and involves a partnership between three Scottish Universities, each distinctive in terms of its history, geographical location, or mission.
Background and Context to the Study (contd) • The word “employability” conjures up a variety of meanings and, unsurprisingly, controversy and possible misconceptions; • Employability is “…about an individual’s chances of progressing into and through the labour market successfully, according to what they choose to do. A person’s employability at any one time depends on a combination of their own skills, understandings and attributes and external factors and circumstances.” (SFC, 2004, p6)
Background and Context of the Study (contd) AUL @ W project has four main strands • Exploration of current activities relating to work-related learning and employability within Scottish universities; • Examination of the views and experience of university staff, students on non-vocational programmes, and recent graduates; • Exploration and development of opportunities for work experience; • Support and development activity aimed at embedding work-related learning within the university curriculum in a sustainable manner.
The Longitudinal Study – Methodological Approaches • A mixture of both quantitative and qualitative approaches has been used to gather data over two year period (since March 2007); • Scoping Study (March 2007 – 3 months prior to graduation) – Over 350 final year students on relevant non-vocational programmes across the three partner institutions completed an online survey, of whom approximately 20% were psychology students; • Phase One: In-depth mixed method interviews took place in May/June 2007 (therefore just prior to graduation) with a follow-up sample of 133 respondents who had taken part in the online scoping study; approximately 18% of these respondents were psychology students.
The Longitudinal Study – Methodological Approaches (contd) • Phase Two: Jan-Mar 2008. In-depth mixed method interviews were also conducted in the second phase of fieldwork. 106 respondents (now all graduates, of whom approximately 16% were psychology graduates); • Phase Three: Nov 2008 - Jan 2009. This phase was primarily quantitative in nature and involved the completion of an online questionnaire using “SurveyMonkey”.A total of 89 participants took part in this phase of whom approximately 20% were psychology graduates; • Phase Four: Final phase of fieldwork near completion. This involves a representative sub-sample of respondents who have been selected for in-depth interviews. As this phase of fieldwork is being carried out nearly two years after participants graduated, transitional issues are being explored in greater depth in this phase.A total of 36 participants have been selected for interview of whom approximately 22% are psychology graduates.
Initial Findings from Quantitative Data Chart of post-university plans (Phase One/Phase Two comparison)
Initial Findings from Quantitative Data (contd) “Employability” related activities undertaken during degree – Phase Two
Initial Findings from Quantitative Data (contd) Preparedness for job market (Phase One/Phase Two comparison)
Initial Findings from Quantitative Data (contd) Phase Three of the study, undertaken about 18 months after graduation, explored how respondents felt that their degree had impacted on their job prospects overall
Initial Findings from Phase Two Qualitative Data • Competitiveness of Job Market From the findings in our study we can see examples of the different experiences that psychology graduands have faced, and how the competitive nature of the sector has had an impact as they make this complex transition from university into employment I expected to get a job sooner than I did. It took quite a few months to get like a permanent job so I expected to get something sooner. And I expected to get a job that actually specifically required my degree and the job I’m doing doesn’t. (Psychology Graduate 1, University B) Well I knew Assistant Psychologist jobs were going to be really competitive in terms of graduate jobs. I knew that I’d have to do some work doing, kind of working up to that, doing care work and things like that. So, I didn’t expect to walk straight into a job, I kind of thought it would be a bit difficult. (Psychology Graduate 3, University A)
Career Plans – differing views • Our initial findings suggest there are individualised pathways that graduates encounter as they make the transition from education into employment. I’m more aware of what I need to do now. When I was at uni it was more, I can do that later. Now kind of like I’ve got to do so that I can get on with my career. I’m more focused with what I want to do kind of thing and looking more at like the different kind of jobs available. But when I was at uni, I was more like, it was at the back of my mind but I wasn’t really thinking too much about it kind of thing. (Psychology Graduate 4, University B) I think you need time out after you’ve got your degree; well I did anyway, to figure out what to do. I still don’t think I’m, I’m still not clear on a career plan, I’m just seeing where things take me really. …My original plan was to be in the job for a year and I’ve been there since September so we’ll see how it goes. I don’t have a definite career plan at all, I don’t think. I’m not really the type of person who can do that, it just changes too rapidly for me I think. (Psychology Graduate 5, University A)
Perceptions on the use and value of their degree • 8-9 months after graduating, respondents had had time to reflect more on the usefulnessand value of their degree in preparing them for future employment. These views varied according to whether or not they were in employment related to their subject area. I can maybe see the different effects that each person has or the different problems that they have, instead of treating them all like they’ve all got an eating disorder and it’s just the kind of same thing. (Psychology Graduate 4, University B) Another respondent, in contrast, believes that the experience gained in his part-time job while studying at university is currently benefiting him more than the actual degree itself. It was difficult trying to figure out something to do because I don’t have office experience and in many ways my degree is worth very little in the sense that a lot of people have degrees. That’s what put me in a stump for quite a while because I couldn’t find anything to get into that I was interested in that I wanted to go into. There was very little available that I could go into…so I do feel like I have a very narrow range of things to go into, that’s why I stuck with the waiting [experience] because it is something I have experience of and I can get into. (Psychology Graduate 2, University A)
Themes and issues being explored in Phase 4 • Current Position (exploring graduate level employment; developing current new skills; impact of current economic climate) • Retrospective Qs and relationship with the present (including probing use and value of degree) • Views now of WBL/WRL experiences on undergraduate programme and relationship to current job or further study; importance of voluntary work • University – place to learn Vs means to an end? • Transitional Issues (Individualised? Non-linear pathways?) • Strategic Change • Aspirations and Future Plans • Any Other Issues
Conclusion • Work-in progress: Can only make tentative conclusions at this stage; • Phase Four crucial; • Initial findings highlight complexities moving from education to employment; • Policy-makers and practitioners should be cautious adopting ‘one size fits all’ approach.
Other themes for dissemination • Comparisons between different non-vocational programmes; • Comparing experiences of postgraduate students with people who are in employment and those who are unemployed; • Graduates’ views of purpose of university; • Impact on employability and related policy agenda.
Research Team on the Aiming University Learning @ Work Longitudinal Study • Dr Robert Ingram and Joanne Brodie (Centre for Research in Lifelong Learning, Glasgow Caledonian University) • Dr Douglas Forbes, Rachel Mulholland and Bridget Hanna (Division of Psychology, Glasgow Caledonian University) • Principal Investigators on AUL @ W Project: Professor Mike Mannion (Glasgow Caledonian University), Jane Weir (University of Glasgow) and Paul Brown (University of St. Andrews) • Project Manager of AUL @ W Project: Irene Bell (University of Glasgow) • We wish to thank Lesley McAleavy, Nuala Toman and Dr Lindsey Burns from Glasgow Caledonian University for their valuable contribution to the Longitudinal Study • For more information on the Longitudinal Study please visit http://www.gcal.ac.uk/employability/graduand.html or email firstname.lastname@example.org