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Does university prepare students for employment? Alignment between graduate attributes, accreditation requirements and industry employability criteria

One of the primary goals of tertiary education is to prepare students for employment. There is debate as to whether university courses adequately provide students with 21st century workplace skills (Kaminski, Switzer, and Gloeckner, 2009; Kivunja, 2014). In a rapidly changing workforce, institutions must constantly adapt to maintain the practical utility of their courses. A thematic analysis was conducted to explore the degree of alignment between graduate attributes, accreditation requirements and industry employability criteria in nursing, psychology and education courses at an Australian University. Graduate attributes were obtained from the Course Approval and Management System. Relevant accreditation requirements were sourced from the respective bodies. A search of advertised job positions for the three discipline fields was conducted from a popular job-search engine (SEEK) to ascertain employability criteria. This analysis identified clear alignment between the university’s graduate attributes and the standards articulated by accreditation bodies for psychology, nursing and education. However, there were differences between graduate attributes and the employability criteria identified by job searches across the three disciplines. Analysis of the employability criteria suggest that employers seek and prioritise graduates who possess practical competencies and 21st century skills such as problem solving and communication. However, there was little to no mention of cultural understandings and attitudes towards inclusion and diversity, both a core graduate attribute and an aspect of professional accreditation. The findings of this study may inform the development of future graduate attributes that better reflect preparedness for the workforce. Alternatively, a reflection on graduate attributes and professional accreditation criteria might produce job advertisements that better reflect work contexts in an increasingly diverse society