University students' dispositional employability and career adaptive behaviour

PhD Thesis


Brown, Jason L.. 2021. University students' dispositional employability and career adaptive behaviour. PhD Thesis Doctor of Philosophy. University of Southern Queensland. https://doi.org/10.26192/q7162
Title

University students' dispositional employability and career adaptive behaviour

TypePhD Thesis
Authors
AuthorBrown, Jason L.
Supervisor
1. FirstProf Peter McIlveen
2. SecondSara Hammer
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Qualification NameDoctor of Philosophy
Number of Pages213
Year2021
PublisherUniversity of Southern Queensland
Place of PublicationAustralia
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.26192/q7162
Abstract

For many years there have been calls from industry and governments to improve the employability of graduates, with claims of a gap between the skills graduates possess and the skills required by industry. Graduate employability is the term used in higher education to refer to the knowledge, skills and attributes a graduate requires to obtain and maintain employment. Employability interventions in higher education reflect the broad definition of employability and thus focus on strategies that emphasise development of human capital, such as graduate attributes, work integrated learning, and co-curricular employability programs. Research in higher education over the past 30 years has focused on the competence-based or human capital approach to employability. More recently, additional forms of capital including social, psychological, cultural, and identity capital (Tomlinson, 2017a) have been encompassed into the concept of employability. However, some scholars have criticised the capital approach for ignoring the role of career management skills and job seeking processes (Bridgstock, 2009; Holmes, 2013). Dispositional employability has emerged as an alternative approach to understanding employability as a psychosocial process that supports individuals to proactively respond to opportunities and challenges in the labour market (Fugate et al., 2004). Informed by dispositional employability and career construction theory (Savickas, 2005, 2013), the purpose of this doctoral research is to explore the psychosocial factors of employability that support university students' engagement in career adaptive behaviours that are likely to lead to the achievement of employment outcomes. A portfolio of three independent but related studies explored university students' dispositional employability and career adaptive behaviours. Study 1 tested the predominant assumptions in higher education of a connection between generic skills and employment outcomes. Responses (N = 110,685) collected by the Australian government through three annual national surveys of university graduates (2015 – 2017) were analysed. Graduates' perceptions of their skills and qualities were found to be significantly correlated with employment outcomes, however the low correlation and near zero effect size indicated that this finding was mainly due to the large sample size. Study 2 was conducted across two phases. Using principal axis factoring, the first phase (N = 751) replicated the dispositional measure of employability (Fugate & Kinicki, 2008) for the first time with a sample of university students, and identified a three factor structure for the job search self-efficacy scale (Saks et al., 2015) which differentiates between passive and proactive job search behaviours and outcomes. The second phase (N = 786) found support for hypothesised relations between dispositional employability, career adaptability, job search self-efficacy, and career identity. Study 3 examined the decisions that university students made in choosing career adaptive behaviours for developing their employability. Using a qualitative research design, content analysis of focus group transcripts was conducted. The study found evidence that students' decisions to engage in career adaptive behaviours were influenced by dimensions of career adaptability (concern, control, curiosity, and confidence). Moreover, students' career adaptive behaviours appeared to principally support the development of human and social capital aspects of employability. There are three significant contributions of the research. The first is in connecting the higher education graduate employability and career development literatures. The three studies in this thesis incorporate evidence from studies across both literatures. The second contribution is the application of career construction theory to graduate employability research, which provides an avenue for future research to better understand how employability is developed during university studies, and to test the effectiveness of curricula and extra-curricular programs on important career outcomes, such as career decisiveness, job search self-efficacy, and career identity. The third contribution is the validation of a measure of dispositional employability for use in higher education settings.

Keywordsemployability, students, university, higher education, career adaptability
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020520104. Industrial and organisational psychology (incl. human factors)
390303. Higher education
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Byline AffiliationsSchool of Education
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