Tunisian Graduates and Employability Skills
Written by Boutheina Lassadi-Sayadi
Tunisian graduate students face the challenge of finding a tenure track job that corresponds to their field of expertise in a context where university job positions have become scarce and therefore highly competitive (the demand for these jobs exceeds the offer). In such a demanding socio-economic context, graduate students bitterly consider that having a graduate degree does not necessarily guarantee a decent graduate job and they have started questioning the value of their degrees and the payback for the years spent studying and taking exams!!
Well, it is certainly a frustrating situation if one takes it from this narrow perspective, but what if it is analyzed from a wider perspective where graduate students would try to find out ways to market themselves and their degrees effectively to potential employers. Yes, marketing and selling!! After all, they seem to struggle in a very competitive socioeconomic context, where the winner takes it all!
How can students market themselves to potential employers? Simply by highlighting the wealth of skills and competencies that they have developed and acquired throughout their university studies. But do graduate students possess the necessary qualities required by potential employers? and do they know anything about these skills?
Let’s identify these skills first. They are called employability skills, transferable skills or soft skills. From ‘employability’, we understand that they are necessary skills to successfully accomplish any graduate job position. From ‘transferable’, we get the idea that they can be transferred from a job context to another, i.e. regardless of the job field, these skills seem to be necessary and from ‘soft’, we understand that they are people skills already ingrained in the individual and they are opposite to hard skills which are technical and knowledge-based skills obtained through a formal learning setting.
These employability skills acquired throughout graduate students’ years of schooling can be summarized in communicating, listening, cooperating, problem solving, team working, conflict resolving, managing, organizing, decision making, planning, innovation encouraging, open spirit advocating, example setting, etc. They are necessary skills to overcome the challenging competitive context of the job market today because they are the necessary skills to successfully deliver and accomplish the job tasks and requirements.
According to employers, the challenging and highly competitive market facing their organizations today demands highly skillful employees that are able to communicate effectively and efficiently. An effective use of communication requires an excellent mastery of the global and business language, which is the English language. An efficient use of communication involves an excellent expertise in ICT skills, i.e. Internet and Computer skills.
Tunisian graduate students need to engage in the process of self-reflection and evaluation in order to highlight the fundamental skills necessary to show their real value as potential employees. They need to identify the weakness in their training in order to be able to work on it and therefore reinforce their profile.
Indeed, it is globally recognized that university graduates need to engage themselves into a lifelong learning process where they continuously evaluate their profile and actively try to improve it. When they keep learning to acquire a particular professional competence such as ICT or language competencies, they need to officially declare that they have a knowledge and experience in that particular competence. To do so, they need to go through a certification process where they can get the recognition from a well-known institution that affirms that they have the knowledge about a particular competence. The certification enhances the employability of the graduates and helps in their career advancement.