The study presents an inquiry into the effects of the skill-based learning mode of learning at the University contexts to the student’s acquisition of transferable or generic skills and subsequently their employability. The hypothesis of the research is that the skill based learning at the University learning contexts has an effect on the acquisition of transferable/generic skills and employability of the graduates. The methodology of the study is a systematic literature review. The findings indicate a correlation between the skill-based learning to the acquisition of transferable skills necessary for the employability of the graduates. The results suggest that the students that engage in skill learning at the University level have a high level of generic and transferable skills making them ideal for employment opportunities.
Hypothesis: Skill based learning at the University learning contexts have an effect on the acquisition of transferable/generic skills and employability of the graduates.
The importance of the University curriculum offering the students an opportunity to develop generic skills cannot be overlooked. It is because, the prospective employers that the graduates seek to engage with expecting to find them having the necessary transferable skills. Therefore, the need and importance of proper learning methods at the University are emphasized. Generic skills are also developed because of the learning methods and contests of the students. Various studies indicate that the expectations of the employer groups in relation to the university education seem to be strongly subjective to the highly context bound interpretations of the sought-after capabilities, competencies and capabilities (Tymon, 2013).
However, Universities cannot offer guarantees that their graduates will possess certain skills or capabilities as is spelled out in their institutional documentation. It is because; it would attract a high level of litigation leaving the universities vulnerable. Nevertheless, the Universities need to offer the best learning contexts that provide an opportunity for generic skill development (Crebert et. al, 2004). It is because, learning cannot only be a matter of theoretical, or lecture based learning. There is a need to employ other tactics that make the student acquire practical skills that can be transferable. In Australia, some universities go to an extent of offering the students the learning contexts in the employment set up (Tanya et. al., 2015). It is an opportunity for them to learn the major skills that they require later at the workplace. Furthermore, offering the practical contexts can also provide the students an opportunity to transfer back the skills and knowledge back to the class set up for a critical reflection.
There is increased emphasis on the undergraduate learning outcomes (Miller, 2008). Whereas there are some outcomes that emphasis on acquisition of knowledge, many of the University learning contexts aim at offering the students an opportunity to gain transferable skills such as teamwork and critical thinking.
Within psychology, the guidelines for undergraduate psychology major emphasize on the importance of the institutions providing learning contexts that provide generic skills acquisition outcomes. There is more emphasis on specific Skill-Based Learning Outcomes (SBLOs) for the students (American Psychological Association, 2013). However, there are signs that some of the University instructors do not spend the time to ensure that the skills set are impacted on the students in the learning institutions. If students are not able to learn in contexts that offer them an opportunity to gain the transferable skills sets, then it has an effect on that the student may fail to realize how the course-based activities and assignments can be applied in the real world. As a result, it significantly hampers the employability of such an individual (Crebert et. al, 2004).
The university assignments and learning are an essential foundation for equipping the students with the needed skills in their careers in the future. There is the need to have an assignment that is understandable and can be related to the workplace contexts so as to foster the development of the needed transferable skills (Tanya et. al., 2015). The students are also able to exude the expertise and capabilities that the employers are seeking for and hence increased the employability of the graduates.
In Britain, there is growing evidence that the recent graduates lack the skills needed for the modern workplace. In the UK, a survey conducted by the Confederation of British Industry indicated that 48% of the employers were encountering problems at filling job positions due to a lack of skills graduates. In a research by Branine (2008), out of 700 employers that took part in the study, 60% indicated that they found problems getting quality graduates that had the needed skills for employability. The unemployability of the graduates is as a direct result of the learning outcomes at the university level (Tymon, 2013). The graduates lack the skills, attitudes, and dispositions, which in turn prevents them from effectively engaging at the workplace.
Te Wiata (2001) found that the student’s ability to integrate and demonstrate the generic and transferable skills was directly attributed to the learning contexts of the student. Some of the most valuable learning contexts are whereby the learning is skill based that goes a long way at promoting the importance of generic skills to the students. In some external circumstances, the students develop personal and professional skills while living away from home, traveling, doing voluntary work all as aspects of learning and enabling them gain the practical skills (Crebert et. al, 2004). The increased confidence development because of practical learning that promoted their communication skills and other skills, the individuals also increased their employability. Moreover, the skill-based learning can also be reflected at the class work level through the student’s reflection.
There is need to note that research i9indicates that the employability of a student is not based on their education level or how much they are learned. What matters is the ability of the graduate to transfer the knowledge and skills to apply them in real life contexts. The success of the graduates is with time being measured by their ability to take full advantage of their skills and knowledge and apply them in an employment set up. Moreover, students may be required to reflect critically on the classroom learning outcomes as well the employment context to be more productive at work (Tymon, 2013). Therefore, this emphasizes the strong need for the skill based learning methods that offer the contexts referred to by the student during a reflection at the workplace set up. This emphasizes the need for contextual learning that is more skill based.
The method used to collect data is the systematic literature review. The method provided an exhaustive summary of all the literature that is relevant to the research question. The first step in the method was to search for the three articles used in the study that are relevant to the hypothesis that Skill based learning at the University learning contexts has an effect the acquiring transferable/generic skills and employability of the graduates.
In search of the relevant data, the keywords used were: employability, skill-based learning, transferable skills or generic skills and graduates. The studies identified were titled:
• The student perspective on employability by Alex Tymon,
• Developing generic skills at university, during work placement, and in employment: graduates’ perceptions by Gay Crebert, Merrelyn Bates, Barry Bell, Carol-Joy Patrick & Vanda Cragnolini
• Psychology Students’ Understanding of the Skill-based Learning Fostered Through University Assignments by Tanya S. Martini, Ashley Rail, and Cole Norton
They are articles published from past researches relevant to the topic of study. The titles of the articles searched for relevance to the research topics and to ensure that the studies have the right keywords. The generalizability and validity of the researches were also ascertained to ensure that they contain data that can be relied upon. The systematic literature review used an objective and transparent approach for research synthesis, with the aim of minimizing bias resulting from the researcher’s personal opinions and biases. The results and discussions of the articles were analyzed for information and data that would assist in drawing a conclusion to the research. The method of review is the qualitative review that involves the gathering, analyzing and reporting on the available evidence from the articles selected for the research.
Students that study in universities that provide for a skill based learning context are at a higher chance than those that are more theoretical to find employment. They are more likely to do better in their respective careers. Students that study and have a chance for developing their employability skills through an attachment to an employer during studies have a 14% chance of being employed faster than those that do not. The majority of graduates (55.3%) felt that it is more vital to develop generic skills and abilities at university than to acquire content knowledge. There is also a high level of endorsement (53.5%) to the value of work placement in enhancing employment prospects after graduation. A majority of the respondents felt the need for a skill based learning instead of content knowledge and coverage at the University.
Skill based learning among the students is a way to equip the students with the necessary skills that they exude during their employment seeking ventures. The employers also opt for individuals that can be able to apply the knowledge that they cover in the content to the actualization of tasks. Moreover, offering contexts that relate to a working environment to students also provides them the necessary confidence and the motivation required by the workplace and hence their employability. On the contrary having students focused on content learning may result to knowledgeable students that do not have the practical skills or do not know how to apply the knowledge to the workplace. The students that learn in contexts such as through attachments and practicum are also able to create good work ethics and network with the potential employers and hence make it easier for them to get employment after graduation. The University learning methods based on skills also offers some employability skills that increase the generic skills of the students.
The study is however limited by the fact that it does not consider other modes of learning that may be present. It also does not consider the fact that majority of what is taught at the Universities cannot be practiced at certain levels and hence the skill based mode of learning can be difficult to implement in some instances. Moreover, the definition of employability and also the transferable skills or generic skills is not well understood. Measuring the employability of an individual may be biased and subject to the interpretation of persons hence may face challenges on the validity and reliability of the research. The results may also be biased as a consequence of the biases and mistakes committed while conducting the studies that were reviewed in the systematic literature review.