Employability in the curriculum

HEIs has an important role in helping students develop not only the academic skills but also the generic or transferable ones more valued by employers in highly skilled professions. In addition they have linking function between students and the labour market.


The concept of employability is closely linked to “professional success”, which can be described by a number of subjective and objective indicators such as:

  • the smoothness of the transition from higher education to the labour market (duration of job search),
  • income and socio-economic status,
  • a posi­tion appropriate to the level of educational attainment,
  • desirable employment conditions (independ­ent, demanding and responsible work), and
  • a high degree of job satisfaction” (Pavlin, 2010).

According to VALOA survey the strength of Finnish higher education seems to be in the academic development of the students. The graduates thought that they have developed the most in their

  • ability to write reports,
  • in their analytical skills and
  • in the mastery of their own field.

The development of entrepreneurial skills, work experience and leadership skills were the weakest dimensions of Finnish education.

According to the survey, the graduates with a higher level of the following  have better chances to be employed:

Skills and competencies needed

  1. Work experience in the field or discipline,
  2. team working skills,
  3. mastery of own field,
  4. inter-cultural competences,
  5. leadership skills,
  6. computer skills,
  7. knowledge of other fields or disciplines,
  8. ability to coordinate activities/projects,
  9. analytical/research skills, and
  10. ability to rapidly acquire new knowledge.
 

In order to enhance the international graduate employability the respondents have suggested a number of measures and recommendations.

Recommendations

  1. The labour market situation and the importance of learning Finnish need to be explained to the students at the beginning of their studies.
  2. Sufficient opportunities for learning Finnish in a communicative and flexible way should be provided throughout degree studies. Intensive summer courses could be offered as well.
  3. If most students would be given the opportunity to carry out internships and other placements in the industries by their institutions, then the level of employment of foreign students in particular might increase.
  4. A stronger collaboration between HEIs and employer representatives should be encouraged, especially in terms of curriculum development and providing more internship opportunities. Mentoring programmes proved to be a good practice in helping international students become more employable.
  5. The programmes offered in English should be made equivalent to those offered in Finnish in terms of availability of courses and the quality of of teaching.
  6. Finally, a database of international alumni contact details need to be maintained for further research, marketing and fundraising purposes.
 

 

" As far as the labour market is concerned with all the soft and hard skills needed the Finnish universities are not even close. The hard skills become obsolete very fast, so I would not say that it’s very important to know, e.g. the programming very well. That would change in 6 month. But the soft skills, for example, how to sell yourself, how to keep up your continuous learning, how to recognise your personal advantage and weakness, how to work within a team and so on.... that I have not seen in the curriculum, that’s what is required.


The comments from the international graduates showed that there is a clear need for better career services in Finnish HEIs. A special emphasis was placed on the lack of support with finding internships. It was advised to make work placements compulsory even at the Master’s level. Other comments indicated difficulties with access to labour market information and professional networks – things that graduates believe HEIs can help with:

" Provide information at the beginning time in Finland, about Finnish job situation and importance of local language and course.

The balance between the labour market-tailored and academic content is yet to be reached and should be pursued with the help of the stakeholders, involving not only employers, but students and graduates as well.

Source of information

Cai, Yuzhuo; Shumilova, Yulia; Pekkola, Elias:
Employability of International Graduates Educated in Finnish Higher Education Institutions, 2012.