An investigation into the employability skills of undergraduate Business Management students
The globalised world of business is driven by employers with a demand for employees who are skilled in teamwork, communication, problem solving and self-management. In particular new entrants such as graduates need to possess these skills to function effectively in the working environment. However, employers are concerned with graduates’ employability level, due to their inability to find graduates with the required skills to effectively contribute and adapt to the working environment. The employability skills of graduates depend largely on the role of universities in the development of these skills. Therefore, more national and international universities are focusing on enhancing the employability of graduates by collating job-market and economic information. Although this input by universities suggests a signal of change, these initiatives are still not enough to ensure the employability of graduates or their effective functioning in the working environment. The primary objective of this study is to investigate final-year undergraduate business management students’ ability to perform the pertinent employability skills which are deemed essential in the business environment. In this study the participants’ ability to demonstrate four employability skills on specific levels were measured. These skills include problem solving, communication, teamwork and self-management. In this study a multi-methods approach was used to collect, analyse and report data. Multimethods include both quantitative and qualitative research methods. The quantitative method was used for analysing aspects of problem solving, communication (written and oral) and teamwork by using different tests to determine the participants’ skill levels. The qualitative method was used for collecting and report on other aspects of problem solving and self management. A total of 45 final-year undergraduate business management students took part in this study. Data entry, tabulation and statistical analysis of quantitative data were done by the Statistical Consultation Services of the North-West University (Potchefstroom Campus) whereas qualitative data were analysed by an external expert as well as the researcher. The results of this study indicate that students are not yet fully competent to demonstrate these employability skills at the end of their studies, which places considerable pressure on universities and lecturers to empower students with employability skills. Although it might seem that employers have high expectations for graduates, employers do not expect candidates to be completely competent when they enter the work environment. The candidates are expected to be able to learn, adapt in the work environment and develop the skills needed for their specific work. It is recommended that universities must implement skills development strategies and develop close relationships with the private sector in order to establish work-integrated learning initiatives. Students are also expected to develop their own skills by taking initiative and taking responsibility for their own learning and development. Henceforth, it is recommended that lecturers develop their own educational abilities to be able to develop students’ employability skills. The most essential limitations of this study include time constraints and limited funding. The magnitude of data collection also limited the study to focus only on four employability skills namely problem solving, communication (written and oral), teamwork and self-management, pertaining to the employability skills of graduates.