Evidence of increased unemployment and underemployment of new graduates is worrying for many groups in society not least the government, universities and the students themselves. Old vocationalism emphasises the importance of developing employability skills within university to address this issue, however, the empirical evidence shows that this has not been successful. Our researchers have proposed new vocationalism, which focuses on the development of students’ learning capabilities and inclinations, as an alternative approach.
The research shows that new vocationalism can reconcile the development of graduate employability with the traditional concerns of university education and the preparation of students for lifelong learning. It also has the benefit of playing to the existing values and strengths of the higher education system, including developing students' practice of learning, and to the preferences that graduate employers reveal in their hiring decisions (taking on graduates as employees who are ready, willing and able to learn).
New vocationalism elevates the priority attached to developing students' powers of learning and reduces the priority of chasing a changing and expanding set of employability skills. For students, new vocationalism offers a chance to build on the abilities that gained them a place at university and develop a strength that experts in lifelong learning have concluded will serve them well for their entire life: willingness and ability to learn without close supervision.
The findings have implications for universities, students, professional bodies, employers and government. Essentially, the higher education sector is well-equipped to excel in preparing versatile graduates who are ready, willing and able to learn with support from active learning, teaching units and careers advisory services.