Opportunities to identify and develop people skills: What university students need early in their degree journey





Employability skills can be categorised as ‘people’ or ‘soft skills’ and ‘technical’ or ‘industry specific’ skills. Australian employers are increasingly seeking to employ university graduates with well-developed people skills. Evidence from industry suggests these skills, in particular communication skills are lacking in today’s graduates. The aim of this study was to raise student awareness of the importance of people skills, assess their perception of personal competence across a range of these skills and support them to develop plans that will help them strengthen these skills in preparation for graduation. An online survey was emailed to 222 first year undergraduate students; 99 were completed. Analysis of quantitative data revealed students perceived themselves to be highly competent across a range of people skills. However, qualitative data found students also identified people skills that they needed to develop further. The study findings suggest that first-year students may have inflated and unrealistic perceptions of their people skills and highlights the importance of the introduction of these employability skills early in the curriculum. Recommendations from this study include the introduction of curriculum activities in the first year of their degree that raise student awareness of industry expectations of people skills upon graduation. The implementation of a people skills self-assessment tool for these students is also recommended as a benchmarking activity. Use of this tool can motivate students to engage with university support and industry opportunities that further strengthen these important skills.


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Author Biographies

  • Ms Ros Sambell, School of Medical and Health Sciences. Edith Cowan University

    Academic- researcher scholar at ECU School of Medical and Health Sciences.

    Unit Coordinator Nutrition and Public Health and Community Nutrition, School of Medical and Health Science, Edith Cowan University. Registered Public Health Nutritionist, Nutrition Society of Australia

    Master of Public Health

    Graduate Diploma of Public Health

  • Dr Lesley Andrew, School of Medical and Health Sciences, Edit Cowan University

    Lesley is the Postgraduate Courses Coordinator for Public Health within the School of Medical and Health Sciences. Lesley also coordinates and teaches into a number of postgraduate and undergraduate public health units.

    BSc honours Applied Biology

    MSc Health Professional Education

    PhD Public Health

    Registered Nurse UK

  • Professor Amanda Devine, School of Medical and Health Sciences, Edith Cowan University

    Amanda is the Associate Dean of Public Health and OHS and Professor of Public Health Nutrition in the School of Medical and Health Sciences. Amanda is the program coordinator for Nutrition and supervises postgraduate students in a range of nutrition research areas that extend from regional and remote nutrition and food security, and how patterns of eating impact gut health across the life course, chronic disease and clinical nutrition; food literacy and food and nutrition education. To extend the reach and impact of these research areas, with others Amanda has produced two cookbooks and developed four websites to implement and translate public health and educational projects.

  • Ms Jill Darby, School of Medical and Health Sciences, Edith Cowan University


    Jill is a lecturer in the School of Medical and Health Sciences, she is the undergraduate coordinator for the Bachelor of Health Science and coordinates the Health Science practicums included in the HST3502 core unit for majors in the Health Promotion, Nutrition, Addiction Studies, Occupational Health & Safety and Environmental Health.

    Masters of Public Health

    Grad Dip in Education

    Bachelor of Applied Science (Home Economics)


  • Associate Professor Shelley Beatty, School of Medical and Health Sciences, Edith Cowan University

    Shelley is the Associate Dean (Teaching and Learning), School of Medical and Health Sciences.

    • Postgraduate Diploma
    • Master of Public Health
    • Bachelor of Education
    • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Dr Stephanie Godrich, School of Medical and Health Sciences, Edith Cowan University

    Stephanie is a Senior Lecturer in Nutrition in the School of Medical and Health Sciences. Her current research projects include food security, regional and remote child nutrition and healthy built food environments.

    Doctor of Philosophy

    Bachelor of Health Science Major in Nutrition



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How to Cite

Opportunities to identify and develop people skills: What university students need early in their degree journey. (2021). Journal of Teaching and Learning for Graduate Employability, 12(2), 348-365. https://doi.org/10.21153/jtlge2021vol12no2art1481