(Mis)matched perceptions: graduates and employers’ views about competencies in professional activities

Conference Paper

The impact of globalization and rapid technological advancement drives to a new concept of working, which encourages continuous competencies’ development, taking into account individuals’ interests, personality and labour market opportunities. This new perspective implies, on one hand, high levels of self-knowledge and, on the other hand, an in-depth knowledge of the needs of employers’ organizations. In the above context, this study aims to analyse the (mis)matches between the perceptions of mastery and utilization of graduates’ competencies, taking graduates’ and employers’ perspectives. For such, three questions drive this study: How do graduates perceive their mastery and utilization of their competencies during professional activities? How do employers perceive graduates’ mastery and utilization of their competencies? Are there mismatches among graduates and employers taking mastery vs utilization of competencies?
A sample of 180 graduates from four study fields (Economics, Social Sciences, Law and from Engineering) of a Portuguese public university participated in this study. From this group, 39 graduates reported to be unemployed, while 141 indicated to be employed at the moment of the inquiry. Sixty percent of the participants were female and the average age of the group of graduates was 24.89 (SD= 5.82). Ninety-eight employers were inquired, where 14% of them represented the public sector and 86% the private one. Fifty-three percent of the employers represented small and medium-size enterprises and 47% represented large-size companies. Data concerning graduates’ perceptions were collected through an online survey distributed by email, approximately 18 months after completing their masters’ degree. Data concerning employers’ perceptions were also collected through an online survey, distributed by email.
The obtained results allow us to conclude there is several mismatches among graduates and employers’ perceptions. In general, graduates have higher perceptions of mastery for transversal competencies than employers. However, in terms of technical competencies, employers consider graduates more competent than graduates think they are. This suggests that employers are satisfied in terms of the technical preparation of graduates, but not so satisfied in terms of transversal competencies. Furthermore, employers generally attribute higher relevance of competencies for professional practice than graduates do, with an implicit message that “everything is important”. This might indicate some difficulty for employers to differentiate competencies in terms of relevance for professional activities. Taking the mismatches perceived within groups, graduates reported discrepancies for technical competencies (lower domain than professional requirement) and generic competencies (higher domain than professional requirement), while employers consider graduates’ mastery of competencies are below professional requirement for all the transversal competencies analysed.
The observed mismatches suggest the need to strengthen the relationship between HE institutions and employers' organizations as a way to smooth graduates’ labour market transition. An example of operationalization of this implication might be the inclusion of learning experiences integrated with professional realities, as a way to foster technical and transversal competencies among students.
This work was supported by the Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia [SFRH/BPD/92331/2013]
and by CIEd – Research Centre on Education, project UID/CED/01661/2019, Institute of Education,
University of Minho, through national funds of FCT/MCTES-PT


Ano de Publicação: 2019


ISBN: 978-84-09-12031-4

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