From graduate to employee: exploring the journeys of first-time entrants into the labour market

Lourens, Elza (2016-12-07)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2016

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT : Graduate employability is high on the agenda of higher education, governments, employers as well as students and their parents. This is in part due to the apparent need for knowledge workers in a labour market serving a knowledge economy as well as the contradictory rise of graduate un- and underemployment globally. Against this background higher education is experiencing pressure to deliver employable graduates. This study explores the journeys of graduates into first-time employment, journeys considered to be complicated transitions. My exploration was framed by the following research question: What were the experiences of first-time entrants into the labour market during their transition from graduate to employee? I aim to contribute to the current body of knowledge on graduate employability by elaborating on the experiences of 46 graduates during their transition into employment. The research was conducted according to a qualitative interpretive approach. During 2015 I conducted semi-structured interviews of approximately forty minutes each with all the participants. Analytic induction was used to uncover categories and themes in the data set. Further analysis was done according to three theoretical approaches. This dissertation is presented in the form of three articles framed by an introductory and a concluding chapter. The first article views graduate employability from an emerging identity perspective and considers the strategies the graduates employed to graduate successfully and to secure employment. In addition to the thematic analysis I developed a trajectory of emerging identity for each graduate. These trajectories signified mostly complex journeys in need of careful negotiation. The importance of a graduate identity and the continuing development of such an identity were highlighted. The second article employs a career management approach with a focus on how the graduates perceived success in the workplace, and on higher education’s contribution to their careers. From the analysis it was evident that thinking about possible careers and engagement with career management processes was only initiated at or after graduation. The graduates regarded higher education a invaluable in terms of securing employment and for whole-person development, but not in terms of their career success. The third article utilises Yosso’s community cultural wealth approach to explicate how graduates from disadvantaged backgrounds use their community networks and resources to secure employment and build a successful career path. Instead of considering these graduates’ resources as deficient, higher education institutions should acknowledge their capitals and use it as a basis for support in making the transition into employment. Graduates were explicit about the ‘gap’ between higher education and employment and the lack of institutional support in bridging this gap. Little or no mention was made about interventions supporting students during this journey. This study confirms the need for an extension of the graduate journey up to first-time employment and the need for institutional support along the journey into employment.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING : Die indiensneembaarheid van graduandi is hoog op die agenda van hoër onderwys, regerings, werkgewers sowel as studente en hul ouers. Dit is deels as gevolg van ʼn klaarblyklike behoefte aan kenniswerkers in ʼn arbeidsmark wat gedryf word deur ʼn kennisekonomie, asook die teenstrydige toename in werkloosheid en onder-indiensneming van gegradueerdes wêreldwyd. Teen hierdie agtergrond ervaar hoër onderwys druk om indiensneembare graduandi te lewer. Hierdie studie ondersoek die roetes van afgestudeerdes van universiteit tot aanvangsindiensneming, roetes wat as kompleks beskou word. Die studie is deur die volgende navorsingsvraag gelei: Wat was die ervarings van aanvangsdeelnemers aan die arbeidsmark tydens die oorgang van gegradueerde tot werknemer? In hierdie studie poog ek om ʼn bydrae te lewer tot bestaande kennis oor die indiensneembaarheid van gegradueerdes deur die ervaringe van ses-en-veertig gegradueerdes tydens hul oorgang na die werkplek te ondersoek. Die navorsing is volgens ʼn kwalitatiewe interpretatiewe benadering uitgevoer. Gedurende 2015 het ek semi-gestruktureerde onderhoude van ongeveer veertig minute elk met die deelnemers gevoer. Analitiese induksie is gebruik om kategorieë en temas in die datastel te identifiseer. Verdere analise is volgens drie teoretiese raamwerke gedoen. Die dissertasie word aangebied in die vorm van drie artikels binne die raamwerk van ʼn inleidende en ʼn slofhoofstuk. In die eerste artikel word indiensneembaarheid vanuit ʼn ontluikende gegradueerde-identiteit perspektief beskou en is die fokus op die strategieë wat studente gebruik het om suksesvol te gradueer asook om in diens geneem te word. Tesame met die tematiese analise het ek ook ʼn trajek van ontluikende identiteit vir elke deelnemer ontwikkel. Hierdie trajekte het op meestal komplekse roetes gedui wat met omsigtigheid hanteer behoort te word. Die belangrikheid van ʼn gegradueerde-identiteit en die voortdurende ontwikkeling van sodanige identiteit is beklemtoon. Die tweede artikel gebruik ʼn loopbaansbestuursbenadering met die fokus op gegradueerdes se perspektief op sukses in die werkplek asook hoër onderwys se bydrae tot sodanige sukses. Die ontleding het aangedui dat die deelnemers hoofsaaklik eers met of na graadaflegging aandag geskenk het aan hul loopbane en bestuursaspekte daarvan. Die gegradueerdes het hoër onderwys as waardevol beskou ten opsigte van indiensneming en hul persoonlike ontwikkeling, maar nie noodwendig ten opsigte van loopbaansukses nie. Die derde artikel dui vanuit Yosso se gemeenskaps-kulturele rykdom benadering aan hoe gegradueerdes van agtergeblewe gemeenskappe hul gemeenskaps-netwerke en bronne ontplooi het om in diens geneem te word en ʼn suksesvolle loopbaan te bou. In plaas daarvan om hierdie gegradueerdes se bronne as ontoereikend te beskou, behoort hoër onderwys instellings hierdie studente se bronne te erken en te gebruik as basis van waar die studente ondersteun behoort te word in die oorgang na die werkplek. Die gegradueerdes was uitgesproke oor die ‘gaping’ tussen hoër onderwys en die werksplek en die gebrek aan institusionele ondersteuning tydens die oorgang. Min tot geen verwysings is gemaak na ondersteuningsintervensies van studente tydens hierdie oorgang. Hierdie studie bevestig die noodsaaklikheid van ’n wyer perspektief op die roete van die student en gegradueerde tot en met indiensneming, en wys die noodsaaklikheid van institusionele ondersteuning aan gegradueerdes tydens die oorgang tot die werksplek, uit.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/100187
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