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I want to be employable! Constructions of employability from university students and recent graduates in New Zealand.

In the 21st century, due to changes driven by neoliberal ideology, global markets, and innovations in technology, the labour market has become more competitive in most industrialised countries, and people carry more individual responsibility for their employment. When uncertainties in the process of gaining employment increase, young graduates are one particular group that can face greater challenges because they are often considered as “inexperienced”. From the social constructionist approach, this thesis explores how final-year university students and recent graduates in New Zealand understand the contemporary labour market and the concept of employability from their everyday life experiences. Narratives were collected from four participants using two semi-structured interviews and photo-elicitation exercises. The narratives and images were interpreted from a case-study approach using psycho-societal perspectives. This thesis demonstrates how participants’ experiences of family, culture, and societal constraints influence how they construct their understandings of the social world and the ways to respond to it. As the four participants are all from middle-class backgrounds, they have an unquestioned desire to participate in higher education in preparation for employment. They also express anxiety towards their unknown career future. When securing a job is an uncertain journey, there are two main challenges in becoming employable: (1) the constant changes in meeting the demands of employability, and (2) the need to fulfil multiple social expectations, especially those from employers. As a result, developing a good quality support network for graduates while dealing with the anxiety raised by job-hunting is vital. The network needs to extend beyond the immediate social sphere of the individuals concerned to include governments, employers, and wider social groups. In order to raise employers’ awareness, governments should make policies and provide subsidies, accordingly, shifting the responsibility of gaining employment from solely at an individual to a collective level.
Type of thesis
Kwek, C. Y. (2018). I want to be employable! Constructions of employability from university students and recent graduates in New Zealand. (Thesis, Master of Social Sciences (MSocSc)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/12321
The University of Waikato
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