Forming future-ready graduates by focusing on the collective dimension of employability
Preparing future-ready graduates who fit readily into labour markets represents a significant issue for higher education institutions (HEIs) worldwide. Industrial stakeholders and HEIs claim that forming students ready for employment implies providing them with the necessary qualifications and personal skills essential for future work. This viewpoint has been challenged by recent research on employability conducted by Kahn and Lundgren-Resenterra. They argue that such interpretations label higher education merely as a personal commodity acquired and consumed for an individual economic reward, thus undermining possibilities to frame employability as developing collective interests. This paper reflects on reinforcing the collective dimension of learning strategies, thereby avoiding reduction of the value of learning to purely labour market needs. It aims to answer the following key research question: How can HEIs provide learning strategies designed to develop graduates’ collective interests towards work through collective reflexivity and corporate agency, whose emancipatory use-value is transferable to workplace collectives? The paper draws on critical realism, and more specifically on Archer’s work, to understand how collective reflexivity generates the emancipation of group members. Meanwhile, expansive learning is viewed as an alternative way of learning and knowledge construction as it relies on sharing concerns and interests with peers, thereby triggering change. Expansive learning cycles will be implemented in a Bachelor’s-level HR Management course of a Swiss School of Business Administration to evaluate by term’s end how students perceive expansion learning as a means of developing their reflexivity and corporate agency, thereby questioning existing current assumptions about employability based on the skillset discourse. Such measures should help HEIs reach beyond the skills agenda discourse dictated by labour markets and provide graduates with learning opportunities that emancipate them to be agents who develop their own narratives for their future work paths, thereby ennobling the role of HEIs.