Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to explore the expectations and reality perspectives accrued in a preliminary management course and understand if they impart and embed real-world skills and develop work readiness. Design/methodology/approach: Primary data collected for the research were qualitative. A total of six focus groups were conducted with a total of 52 students enrolled at a large metropolitan university in Australia. NViVO was used to code and analyse the data.
Findings: The study found that at the commencement of university studies, the expectations were simple like, making new friends, getting around the campus and settling well into the university culture, which over time extended to getting a part-time job, securing internships, memberships of associations, desire to participate in exchange programs and get work-ready by the close of the first year. The research outcomes show that those who held a part-time job while studying demonstrated a better understanding of the preliminary management subject matter taught in class and obtained better grades. Primarily, the preliminary management course did not specifically impart work-ready skills and it would be fitting to embed employability skills in the management curriculum from the commencement of their programs in the first year.
Research limitations/implications: Qualitative research is used to comprehend a research problem from the outlook perspectives of the local population it involves. The limitations of this methodology includes no objectively verifiable result, adept interviewing skills for interviewers, slow and time consuming during interviewing process and intensive category process also as qualitative inquiry is normally open-ended, the participants have more control over the content of the data collected.
Practical implications: The lack of skill mismatch and graduates who are not work-ready incurs significant economic and social costs. A number of policy implications emerge due to university-labour market links and skills mismatches and the impact on students and the labour market. The rise in unemployment and the skills mismatch seen after the economic crisis requires immediate attention. Job creation is crucial but so is the need to develop graduate with appropriate matching skills and qualities to do the job. Mandatory internships, apprenticeships and on-the-job training for university students would help. Governments can provide financial incentives and subsidies to organisations providing the above services and working cooperatively with the universities to get students work-ready. Universities must raise the educational requirements over time as jobs become more complex. Universities can build communities of practice with the assistance of this scheme to enable students to interact with the industry professionals. An additional year of vocational training could be recommended for the graduating students. This would help the young graduates to get work-related skills. Wheelahan et al. (2015) state that building better links between education and work can help provide a more rational approach to vocational development. They propose the use of vocational streams and productive capabilities in the education system and labour market to achieve this.
Social implications: This requires a combined effort from all stakeholders. A systematic approach needs to be adopted. First, the gap between the knowledge provided by the universities and the skills required by the employers need to be reduced. Second, the employers and the universities should keep a watch on the labour market and develop strategies to meet the dynamic requirements of the labour market collaboratively. Third, career guidance will help inform students make a career choice to match the labour market opportunities. This should be a part of the policy agenda for responding to the lack of work-ready graduates in the labour market.
Originality/value: Learning and teaching activities must include industry interface and engagement right from the first year at university. The main findings from this research indicated the need for better understanding of first-year students’ expectations. The two significant student expectations that emerged were “need for collaborations” and “industry interface”.
- First-year undergraduate students
- Industry engagement
- Work readiness