Science students’ conceptions of factors that will differentiate them in the graduate employment market
Keywords:employability, work-integrated learning, student voice, student engagement, career development, curriculum
To gain employment and a fulfilling career, students need to understand the skills and knowledge that are important and how to articulate and evidence their employability. Here we report on research investigating science students’ priorities related to immediate employment vs. long-term employability and the factors that students perceive as important to these. We interviewed 138 science students from four Australian universities and found that they were most focused on immediate employment. Students were keen to participate in opportunities to ‘value add’ to their degree, especially those that might help them to gain relevant work experience and professional networks. However, students’ understanding of the relative importance of experiences and skills that would enhance their employability was variable, as was their understanding of the career pathways that they might pursue. Our analysis highlights the importance of explicitly designing curriculum to help students understand the career opportunities available; the skills and abilities needed for diverse careers; and the experiences through which they might develop and evidence these. Furthermore, to engage students, we need to help them to address their greatest and most immediate concerns about gaining employment at graduation, while also setting them up for successful and fulfilling careers.
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