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The employability skills of higher education graduates: Insights into conceptual frameworks and methodological options

In recent decades, a growing body of literature has emerged to illustrate the strong pressure on higher education institutions to prepare graduates for the world of work. This paper examines studies that attempt to incorporate the concept of employability skills in the empirical analysis. It thus focuses on the conceptual discussion and methodological options to show how researchers cope empirically with the assumptions associated with employability skills. This literature survey offers a taxonomy of methods that distinguishes between direct and indirect, as well as supervised and unsupervised, methods for the collection of data on skills. Although the underlying premise of the available research is that higher education institutions and policymakers should be provided with information on employability skills, the studies examined in this paper suggest that the identification of those skills is an impossible endeavour. Agreement is only found on some cognitive, technical, and relational skills. More importantly, it is argued that the supply-side approach overlooks economic and social processes that might affect employability. The problem of graduates’ employability transcends higher education institutions’ provision of useful and matched skills.