Valuable lessons can be learned if Universities, TAFES and tertiary colleges are to benefit from the findings of a national survey into employer satisfaction released early this year.
GRADUATES scored high ratings in the
2017 national Employer Satisfaction Survey (ESS) with 9 out of 10 employers awarding
84 per cent or more for employability attributes.
The online survey was conducted with 97 higher education institutions and 56 non-university Higher Education Institutions comprising 97,481 graduates including local and international students with 90 per cent of employers responding to the survey.
It led the peak body, Universities Australia, to feel justifiably proud of the result with acting CEO, Catriona Jackson, saying that it showed university graduates were meeting employers’ high expectations.
“The survey gives us important, transparent information to guide our understanding of the complex transition from study to work,” Ms Jackson said.
The ESS is the largest and most comprehensive survey of employer perceptions focusing on graduate employees, and the only one incorporating direct experience of graduates’ work.
The survey, the third of its kind since
2013, asked employers to rate how likely they were to hire another graduate from the same university or TAFE course if they had a relevant vacancy.
The lessons to be learned from the surveys have major implications for future employment, course selection, attracting international students, and shaping the entire educational experience as institutions promote their brand competitively to market education.
Data collected by the 2016 survey showed that English as an Additional Language students rated their educational experience six percentage points below English speakers and domestic students.
Randa Collett, Head of Mathematics with the Education Department of WA, and an experienced educator teaching international and EAL students, said that resources needed to be directed at identifying students’ language proficiency, use their cultural understandings and make expectations explicit.
The most common reason given by students in 2015 and 2016 surveys for discontinuing studies was lack of support with stress, workload and study-life balance accounting for between 24 and 41 percent leaving.
“Such high losses could be reduced through the planned use of tutors, using student-mentors for peer support, giving student services a greater role and holding more tutorial classes where students can have concerns addressed,” Ms Collett said.
Employers rated vocational type qualifications like engineering, health, architecture, building and education highly while management, creative arts, agriculture and environmental studies were lower on the scale.
“TAFE, schools and universities can make their courses more vocationally oriented by providing opportunities for students to develop problem-solving, calculation and number skills with real-life challenges as I do,” Ms Collett said.
Subjects like physical science, mathematics and creative arts that rated low on employers’ satisfaction list could be transformed through STEAM or STEM.
It would give students an edge when competing against people from engineering and related technologies, she said.
A major source of concern, in the surveys, is that international students rated their educational experience less positively by six percentage points than domestic students with student support and learner engagement elements scoring low.
Ms Collett, said that, as a migrant herself, she advocated schools and TAFES review their teaching programs to adapt them to the background of each international student, seek ways of integrating them into the community and focus on building learner engagement.
She was so successful in her methods that, in 2016, her Korean student graduated with a Mathematics Exhibition award for the ATAR in WA and is an undergraduate studying biomedicine at the University of Melbourne.
The low participation rates in the 2016 survey of Indigenous students and high rates leaving higher education was viewed with concern by the 2016 national report.
Despite a range of studies and programs that include Closing the Gap, Stronger Smarter Philosophy, Follow the Dream, Two-way Learning and the Aboriginal Cultural Standards Framework, progress remains slow in key areas of attendance, literacy, numeracy, post-school options, leadership and engagement.
The road ahead is long and challenging with Ms Jackson saying, in a press release this year, that the Commonwealth Government’s December 2017 decision not to keep funds at the level of inflation would reduce places for students in University.
“A lack of skilled knowledge workers in the years ahead will mean missed opportunities for Australians to fill the jobs that will be in greater demand,” Ms Jackson claimed.
It may be time for business to play a greater role through philanthropy with donations to education.
Lionel Cranenburgh is the 2015 Positive Behaviours Winner (WA) and Director of Lionel Cranenburgh and Associates, Career Company. email@example.com