The importance of work placement as a part of higher education can not be disputed. A number of studies ( Bennett, Dunne & Carre, 2000; Arnold, Loan-Clarke, Harrington & Hart, 1999) have proved that skills gained at work placements are very important and sought after by employers. Students with work placement experience become more attractive as future employees. (Arnold et al.1999) However Crebert, Bates, Bell, Patrick & Cragnolili (2004) believe that higher education institutions should advertise work placements not only for employment prospects, but for the development of the whole person throughout the degree program and even beyond. This research will try to identify the key generic skills, which may be gained at work placements and to what extent may these affect the student's performance in their final year.
In today's world, new graduates have to face many more challenges when entering the graduate recruiting market, in comparison to what predecessors had to face. Many of them work for international organisations and are required to be flexible, cooperative, work longer hours and to be aware of inter- cultural differences ( Crebert et al. 2004). Harvey (1999) believes that the reason behind it is that most organisations have undergone significant change in the last decade and most are developing structures and practices to enhance their flexibility for further change. Traditional 'job for life' securities that characterised the workplace some time ago are disappearing and graduates have to be prepared for uncertainty in their future career.
On the other hand a lot of young people don't even know what they want to do with lives, so they just continue studding at university after they finish a college.
'What career? How many undergraduates know what they want to do, and what is the likelihood of them getting those jobs anyway? The object of a degree is further study, not three years to pick a job.' (Student's response to questionnaire about career. Bennett et al. 2000 p.84)
This general upskilling of the work force together with fewer potential graduate jobs available creates an oversupply of graduates. (Harvey, 1999) Some of these graduates, when put into a real working environment tend to prove, that they are not ready to take on the responsibilities and pressure which comes with each particular graduate position because of the lack of skills. The unreadiness has been noticed by employers, which criticise the higher educational system, because it is failing to deliver ready to work graduates out of the university. This critics are mainly based on assumptions that universities are responsible for equipping graduates with all the skills and knowledge necessary for the workplace.(Crebert et al., 2004) In Crebert's study, employers in focus group discussions had strong views on the ways in which students should be prepared at university for all kinds of situations, from problem solving, making decisions, working in a team and learning for themselves.
On the other side in the graduates' eyes, employers were sometimes guilty of not providing the learning opportunities that would enable them to be developed. Employers usually find the team working skills as the most important generic skill, because their business success normally depend up on the team succeeding. A team is more than a number of brilliant advisers. It is a group of people who understand each other, who know individual strengths and weaknesses and who co-operate with one another. (Margerison & McCann, 1990) The study of Competence development in undergraduate business-related degrees, conducted by John Arnold et al. (1999), investigated the development of 15 major competences in academic studies and work placements as perceived by business undergraduate students. Arnold has found that perception of competence development in both,...