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Graduate readiness for the employment market of the 4th industrial revolution: The development of soft employability skills

Purpose: The purpose of this paper is, first, to examine student perspectives of their university experience in terms of the soft employability skills they develop; second, how prepared those students feel for the future employment market and finally investigate whether there are differences in perceptions between Chinese and Malaysian students given their different educational experience. Design/methodology/approach: In this study, 361 predominantly Chinese undergraduate students at two universities, one in China and the other in Malaysia completed the 15-item Goldsmiths soft skills inventory using an online survey. Findings: The results, analysed using factor analysis and confirmatory factor analysis, indicated that the university curriculum develops student soft skills, particularly in the Malaysian university and supports the relationship between soft skill and student preparedness for employment. The results also indicate that compared with the respondents from the Chinese university, the Malaysian university respondents were more likely to be positive to statements concerning their respective university’s ability to develop their soft skills. Research limitations/implications: Such findings have implications for education providers and business in that it is important for universities to embed soft skills into the curriculum in order to develop graduate work readiness. Originality/value: What this research contributes is not only consolidation of existing research in the contemporary context of a disruptive jobs market, it takes research forward through analysing student perceptions from two universities, one in Malaysia and the other in China, of the skills they develop at university and the importance of soft skills to them and their perceptions of future employment and employability. Such research will provide insight, in particular, into the role of education providers, the phenomena of underemployment among graduates in China, and be of practical significance to employers and their perception that graduates lack the necessary soft skills for the workplace (Anonymous, 2017a; Stapleton, 2017; British Council, 2015; Chan, 2015).