Ignorance is risk: An exploratory investigation of students’ perceptions of their education–employment pathways
Keywords:employability, career planning, student voice, transition, higher education, Australia, education-employment pathways
The widely held view that higher education constitutes a gateway to employment has underpinned the dramatic widening of access to university in recent decades. However, globalisation and technological development have complicated the task of enhancing the employability of students, as the future world of work has become ever-more dynamic and unpredictable. Given such conditions, the delivery of employability teaching has become a central focus of many higher education providers (HEPs). To meet their responsibilities, HEPs must understand how students perceive their respective courses in relation to the employment pathways that they seek to follow. The present study aimed to gain an understanding of prospective students’ perceptions regarding this, but also to evaluate the accuracy of these perceptions. Because some course types are more narrowly vocational than are others, a subsidiary aim was to investigate whether or not student expectations and knowledge varied depending on course-type. The findings gathered from 462 students enrolled into a wide range of courses at 15 Australian universities were profound. They highlight that, while most students commence university with a career goal in mind, many have a poor understanding of the education-employment pathways on which they have embarked. Students demonstrated a limited understanding of the careers to which their courses might lead, and of the relevance of postgraduate study to their chosen career goals. These findings varied significantly across different course-types. Overall, these findings highlight the need for HEPs to educate their students explicitly about the education-employment pathways that are available to them.
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