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Competences, capabilities and capitals: Conceptual paradigms in the educational-employment relationship

This chapter explores three influential approaches to the analysis of the relationship between education and employment, broadly framed in terms of individuals’ lifetime employability. It offers an oversight of three dominant approaches which offer differing, yet also overlapping, accounts of employability. The concept of competences has been influential in explaining individuals’ immediate labour market outcomes and has framed understandings of formal educational processes which potentially enhance learners’ future employment outcomes. Competences are largely understood to be both supply-side driven and demand-orientated. Capabilities are understood to embody broader ability sets than those which merely reference occupational demands. Capitals can be derived from individuals’ formal educational and socio-cultural experiences and impact on their subsequent educational and economic outcomes. The chapter concludes by considering how each approach maps onto the agency-structure dynamic which is central to any analysis of individuals’ educational and subsequent employment experiences.