AsiaPacific Journal of Cooperative Education
Business Graduate Competencies: Employers’ Views on Importance and Performance Dave Hodges* and Noel Burchell
Faculty of Business, UNITEC Institute of Technology, Private Bag 92025, Auckland, New Zealand Received 14 April 2003; accepted 23 May 2003 This paper reports on a study of New Zealand employers’ views of how well business graduates are prepared for the workplace. The employers were asked to rate the importance of a selection of graduate competencies using a seven-point Likert scale, and were asked to rate new graduates’ performance for the same graduate competencies. The study also investigated the level of importance that employers place on prior work experience for new business graduates. A ‘competency gap’ between importance and performance was identified from these findings and the impact these findings have for cooperative education programmes is discussed. (Asia-Pacific Journal of Cooperative Education, 2003, 4(2), 1622). Keywords: competency; business graduates; employers; importance; performance; New Zealand; soft skills; hard skills
e are now living in a world where “the focus is shifting to the continual production of knowledge as a commodity, positioning workers as human capital, virtually immune to obsolescence” (Butler, 1999, p. 136). In such a world, identifying and developing the important competencies required of graduates is a challenging task for curriculum developers. It has been stated previously that the prime function of cooperative education programs worldwide is to prepare students for the workplace by developing generic and specific competencies that educators believe will be useful to employers (Rainsbury, Hodges, Burchell & Lay 2002). But what do we really know about employers’ views on graduate competencies? What competencies do employers view as important, and how competent are our graduates when they first enter the workplace? The literature in cooperative education has focused largely on the views of academia, with few reports of research into employers’ views (e.g., Apostolides & Looye, 1997; Dubick, McNerney & Potts, 1996; Wessels & Pumphrey 1995). It is recognized that employer support for cooperative education programs is crucial (Coll, 1996), although indications of employer loyalty can often (mistakenly) be taken as an indicator of satisfaction (Varty, 1996). As Hurd and Hendy (1997) state “employers need data upon which to base their decisions, so it would be prudent for co-op practitioners to conduct research regularly to ensure that employer needs are in fact
being met by co-op programs” (p. 60). The present study builds on previous work undertaken of stakeholders’ views of business graduate competencies (Burchell, Hodges & Rainsbury, 2001), and science and technology graduate competencies (Coll, Zegwaard & Hodges, 2002a, 2002b). Here we look at employers’ views of business graduates’ competencies, this time covering a wider cross-section of organizations in Auckland, New Zealand, and involving a larger number of employers. This study adds to previous work by asking employers to consider the importance of a number of graduate competencies, and to rate the performance of graduates who recently entered the workforce. In addition, employers are asked to consider the importance they place on prior work experience, for example, gained through cooperative education programs, for graduates entering the workforce. Graduate Competencies So what do we understand by the term ‘competency’? Spencer and Spencer view competency as a characteristic of an individual, that is causally related to job performance (1993). Competencies can be accumulated within an individual and represent a capacity to perform at some future point (Boam & Sparrow, 1992; Page, Wilson & Kolb, 1993). Essentially, these definitions relate to enduring characteristics possessed by an individual that, under normal
*Correspondence to: Dave...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document