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Models go some way towards capturing the meaning
of this intangible concept of employability, they are either too complicated to be
practically useable or too simple to do justice to this comprehensive issue. For many
people employability is simply about getting a job, and the term is increasingly used
carelessly and interchangeably with “enterprise”, which in turn is confused with
“entrepreneurship”. The aim of this paper is to present a practical, coherent model, that
is firmly based on existing research findings in employability and on the various
individual elements that make up the framework. Employability is an issue of concern in
many areas of the economy, but in this context the focus is on students and graduates
in South Africa’s higher education.
The Concept of Employability
Various interpretations of employability exist ranging from the use of simple measures,
such as whether or not a graduate has secured a job to theories of gradueteness. If
employability measured in the simplistic terms of whether or not a graduate has
managed to secure a job within six months of graduating, it only provides a very blurred
and imprecise indication of what the student has gained. Questions need to be asked
about whether or not the graduate is using the skills, knowledge and understanding
gained in their degree studies in a “graduate level job”, which in turn opens up a whole
new argument about what exactly a “graduate level job” entails.
There is so much more to employability than gaining employment, and first destination
statistics do not take into account the fact that some graduates may have taken lower
level jobs in order to deal with financial pressures, particularly after incurring debts
through their studies. Fugate, Kinicki and Ashforth (2004) suggest that: Employability is
conceptualised as a form of work specific active adaptability that enables workers to
identify and realise career opportunities. As such, employability facilitates the movement
between jobs, both within and between organisations. Although employability does not
assure actual employment, we contend that it enhances an individual’s likelihood of
gaining employment. (p.16)
Similarly, ‘’for the individual, employability depends on the knowledge, skills and
attitudes they possess, the way they use those assets and present them to employers
and the context(e.g. personal circumstances and labour market environment) within
which they seek work’’ (Hillage and Pollard, 1998,p. 12).
In simple terms, employability is about being capable of getting and keeping fulfilling
work. More comprehensively employability is the capability to move self-sufficiently
within the labour market to realise potential through sustainable employment.
An Academic and Work Experience Perspective
O’ Neil (1997) observes that numerous tertiary graduates lack the required knowledge,
skill and experience to be productive members of a workforce where the spotlight...