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The discussion is divided into the following subtopics: (1) Introduction, (2) Scenario of Unemployment among graduates, (3) Statement of the Problem, (4) Research Questions, (5) Objectives of the Study, (6) Significance of the Study, (7) Scope and Limitation of the Study.
There hasn't been much research in recent years on the effectiveness of finishing school program/concept ever since it was launched in Universiti Putra Malaysia in May 2006. As well as other, pre-employment programs in various public higher education institution. One of the examples of pre-employment program in other public higher education institutions are the Pre-Employment Programme in Universiti Malaya, with the objective of preparing their graduating students for the job market.
Even though more and more public as well as private higher education institution are following the footstep of Universiti Putra Malaysia in implementing program that are related to the Finishing School concepts. But, still the effectiveness of these programs in the context of graduate employability is still vague till today.
2. Unemployment among graduates
In February 2006, Berita Harian, a local renowned newspaper had came out with the statistics that in that particular Malaysia produces an approximate number of 60,000 graduates. However, 20,217 graduates registered themselves with the Ministry of Human Resource Malaysia as jobless graduate. Back then, ever since year 2000, unemployment rate among the graduates had shown unstable rise and falls. Figure 1, shows the unemployment rate among graduate since year 2000.
Figure 1: Rate of Unemployment among Graduates
Source: Adapted from an Overview of Graduate Employability of Recent
Graduates: Some Facts and Figures, Seminar on Employability, the
Ministry of Higher Education of Malaysia by Dept. of Statistics
Malaysia Labour Force Survey
Even though the percentage of unemployment has increased over the years but still it has not reached the desired level of employment upon six months of graduation. 75% of the graduates should be employed in their relevant fields within six months of their graduation (MOHE, Objective 4). However, till year 2009 this particular number had yet been achieved. Figure 2, shows the employment status of Malaysian Graduates from year 2006 to 2008.
Figure 2: Employment Status of Malaysian Graduates (All Levels)
Source: Adapted from an Overview of Graduate Employability of Recent
Graduates: Some Facts and Figures, Seminar on Employability, the
Ministry of Higher Education of Malaysia by Dept. of Statistics
Malaysia Labour Force Survey
Ever since then, it has been traditionally regarded that an extremely impressive cumulative grade point average (CGPA) obtained by graduates through years of slogging in universities would be their passport to seeking a qualified and highly rewarded employment that are on par with their academic achievements or CGPA. This as a result, had made and prompted the undergraduates to be solely devoted and focused on their studies in order to achieve academic excellence and bar out totally or partially co-curricular programs participation. This step had also causes the undergraduates to bar out the employment related soft skills from accumulating in themselves upon graduation. As a result, these graduates fail to perform or in other word "sell themselves as marketable graduates".
3. Statement of the Problem
In the recent years, employability among university graduates has become an important issue. It becomes very important particularly as more and more graduates are unemployed prior six months upon graduation.
Universities have all along been regarded as a place where graduates are inculcated with moral, social development and also a place where new knowledge are supposed to be discovered. However, in this days the universities not only has to continuing providing graduates that are highly developed in moral and social as well as highly educated in the sense of wide and broad knowledge now universities also has to assumed the role of producing graduates that are able to solve economic problems and students that accommodates the needs of the mass (Millward, 2005). In whole, it is to be said that the expectations on the higher learning institutions is no longer only on producing scholars only, but also to ensure graduate employability. Till today Malaysia is facing problems of unemployment among graduates. In year 2006, it was revealed that around 40,000 graduates are jobless or in other word unable to get themselves a job.
A survey on "Graduates Unemployment" was conducted on 24 September - 7 October 2005 by Ministry of Human Resources in collaboration with the Ministry of Higher Education revealed that 59,315 graduates were unemployed. Among factors that lead to graduates unemployment were:
Mismatch in supply and demand
Quality of graduates do not match industry demand
Overall personality of graduates reflect lack of self confident during
Courses offered by universities do not match industry demand
Poor communication skills
Lack of general knowledge due to poor reading habits
Lack of experience
Choosy about jobs
Demand high salary
Unwilling to take up jobs away from home
Source: Hassan. C.N., Mad Zain. A .N., Ali.A.J
(2007) A Review on the Ways and
Strategies in Developing Soft Skills.
Without further ado, there was lots of commentaries and pointing finger, some saying that universities for being out of touch with reality and some blaming the graduates for unable to present themselves or even being choosy.
The factors that are mentioned above are deficiencies in soft skills. However, surprisingly the lack of soft skills seems to be global issues nowadays.
According to a report by the BBC, four out of 10 large employers in the United Kingdom expects to struggle to fill graduate vacancies because of a shortage of applicants with the right skills. The report quoted the findings from a biannual survey by the Association of Graduate Recruiters, which said employers found many graduates lacking in soft skills. Candidates are normally academically proficient but lacking in soft skills such as communication as well as verbal and numerical reasoning." In Australia, a study by Monash University showed that more than one-third of foreign students are graduating from Australian universities with very poor English skills. The study revealed, South Korean students fared the worst, with 55.5% not meeting the required English standard to work professionally in Australia. They were followed by Thailand (50.9%), Nepal (47.9%), Taiwan (47.4%), China (43.2%), Hong Kong (42.9%), and Japan (36.8%). About 23.5% of students from Malaysia did not meet the required English standard (The Star Online, February 4, 2007). In Australia, initiatives to foster generic skills/soft skills are receiving increasing attention as it also a requirement for future employees (NCVER 2003).
Annually, 250,000 Malaysians are estimated to complete their studies at higher education institutions locally or overseas. To produce competent graduates to fulfil national and international manpower needs with 75% of the graduates employed in their relevant fields within six months of their graduation is one of the Ministry of Higher Education's objectives. But in 2006; 44.5%, 2007; 48.4% of the graduates were employed six months upon graduation. In 2008, 52.8 % of the graduates were employed six months upon graduation.
However, the lack of jobs being offered in the labour market is not a factor that contributes to this phenomena as it could be seen through statistics that every year the jobs that are offered exceeds the numbers of graduates. The table below shows the number of job offered and the numbers of graduates graduating each year ever since 2005.
Table 1: Number of Job Vacancies and Number of graduates from year 2005
Number of Graduates
Source: Labour Department, Ministry of Human Resource and Ministry of Higher Education.
Graduates are facing this particular problem as local graduate is said to be lack of certain decisive factors that fail to meet the demands of the employers. Where local graduates lacked focus on three key competencies of employability skills which is the self-image or grooming, effective communication skills an English proficiency.
In order to respond to the suggestion by the Ministry of Higher Education and also the challenges given out by the employers in the job market of fresh graduates, The Co-curriculum Centre of UPM has initiated a serial program called the "Finishing School Program".
Therefore, the concept of Finishing School was launched in May 2006 and was officially introduced in the academic year of 2007/2008 as a compulsory program to all final semester undergrads.
But to what extend that this particular program had contributed to the employability of the graduates of Universiti Putra Malaysia. As a result, this research ceases to exist to determine the effectiveness of this program.
Based on the problem context and statement of problem, several research questions are posed. There are:
4. Research Questions
This study intends to answer the following three research questions:
Was the concept/program Finishing School effective?
Did the generic/employability skills of the participant improved after the program?
Why are graduate still unemployed upon 6 months of graduation?
This study attempts to answer such research questions, hence to fill up the gap in the specific context of the effectiveness of the Finishing School Program/Concept towards graduate employability.
5. Objectives of the Study
To determine the effectiveness of the Finishing School Program/Concept.
To determine the participants' skill level after and before attending the program.
To determine the factors that is causing unemployables among graduates.
To determine the perception of the participants on the program.
To suggest ways of enhancing this program.
6. Significance of the Study
The results of this study will aid in designing more effective and interactive pre-employment program at other higher education institution to enhance graduate employability as well as to determine the effectiveness of this particular program that had been initiated by UPM.
7. Scope and Limitation of the Study
The study will focus on the effectiveness of the finishing school program.
Participation in this study was voluntary. The sample consists of graduates of Universiti Putra Malaysia class of 2009, 33rd convocation. The choice of selecting this particular sample as most of the graduates of this class should already have been employed upon six months of graduation.
The data from this study was collected through a survey. As the study will be cross-sectional in nature, it is difficult to draw causal inferences about the effectiveness of this program.
This study has several limitations. As the respondents are graduates of institutions and had already been graduated more than six months, therefore there might be some difficulties in contacting this entire sample of respondent and to get the respondent to fill up the questionnaire.
Other than that, this study is mainly based on perceptions; a sort of self report by the graduate on their experience in undergoing the Finishing School program. Perceptions of the students on the effectiveness of the Finishing School program may not be equally genuine to their employability status now and it fully depends on the respondent's honesty and understanding of questionnaire that are given to them.
The study also has a limitation in the term of the data that would be collected is limited as only the graduates of Universiti Putra Malaysia is involved. As a result, the results or findings may not be very useful to other pre-employment program in other higher education institution as, the concept or module in different university might be different from what is being conducted in UPM.
This chapter discusses the literature review relevant to the study. The discussion is divided into the following subtopics: (1) The concept of employability and graduate employability, (2) Employability/soft skills, (3) The concept of Finishing School, and (4) Framework of the study.
The concept of employability and graduate employability
Generally, the term employability has the definition of the skills and abilities to look for employment, remain in employment or obtain a new employment as and when required (Hillage and Pollard 1998; Rothwell and Arnold 2007; Thijssen et al. 2008). Whereas, specifically employability could be seen as a ''psycho-social construct'' embodying a range of individual characteristics that facilitate adaptive behaviours necessary to maintain ongoing employment within rapidly changing employment environments (Fugate et al. 2004, p. 16).
Another alternative to the definition of employability would be seen in the context of a function of the labour market context with labour supply and demand determining an individual's employability at any given time (Forrier and Sels 2003).
However, in the higher education sector, there are much debate going on regarding the definition and measurements of graduate employability is to be a critical benchmark in measuring the performance at both the individual and institutional level (Harvey 2001). Harvey (2001, p. 97) criticises
"The tendency to see employability as ''an institutional achievement rather than the propensity of the individual student to get employment'', nevertheless interest in graduate employability has arguably produced benefits for all stakeholders including universities, governments, employers and the graduates themselves".
The government and employer also have their very own perspective on employability.
"Employability is mainly concerned with ensuring that
graduates are capable of contributing to ''economic
competitiveness in a global context'' (Cranmer 2006, p.170).
McLaughlin (1995) defines employability as a mix of skills that employers expect to find in new recruits. Skill is then defined as a set of characteristics that make a person employable, including knowledge, know-how, attitudes and behaviours.
On the other hand, there are attempts to define employability in a more holistic approach, for example, by the Canadian Labour Force (1994), Hillage and Pollard (1998) and the Northern Ireland Executive (2002). The literature developed by Hillage and Pollard (1998) offers this definition:
"Employability is the capability to move self-sufficiency within the labour market to realize potential through sustainable employment. For the individual, employability depends on the knowledge, skills and attitudes they possess, the way they use these assets and present them to employers and the context (e.g. personal circumstances and labour market environment) within which they seek work". [p.xi,1999]
According to Hillage and Pollard (1998), employability is about having the capability to gain initial employment, maintain employment and obtain new employment if required. For the individual, employability depends upon:
Assets in terms of knowledge, skills and attitudes,
The way these assets are used and deployed,
Presentation of assets to potential employers,
The context within which the individual works, e.g. labour market, personal circumstances.
2. Employability/soft skills
Coopers and Lybrand (1998) define 'employability skills' in terms of four key areas:
1). Traditional intellectual skills - e.g. critical evaluation, logical
2). Key skills - communication, IT, etc.,
3). Personal attributes - motivation, self-reliance and
4). Knowledge of organisations and how they work.
There are several synonyms - core, key, generic, personal transferable skills, common, work or employment related skills - this is another of the reasons why it is difficult to conceptualise what is meant by employability skills. Added to that, 'skills' are often referred to as capabilities, competencies or attributes, levels or learning outcomes, thus compounding the sense of confusion.
The Employability Skills Profile (1992) lists that 25 major employers in Canada wanted:
i) People who can communicate, think and continue to learn throughout their
ii) People who can demonstrate positive attitudes and behaviours,
responsibility and adaptability.
iii) People who can work with others.
The Dearing Report (1997) has came out with a more comprehensive list of skills and argues that higher education should realise its aspiration to be world class in both teaching and research through a compact with staff, students, government, employers and society in general. The report supports the further development of a range of what it calls 'key' skills during higher education: communication, both oral and written, numeracy, the use of communications and information technology and learning how to learn. The report argues that these are necessary outcomes of all higher education programmes, namely:
Communication: speaking, listening, reading and writing skills.
Application of Number: interpreting information involving numbers, carrying out calculations, interpreting results and presenting findings
Information Communication Technology: finding, exploring, developing and presenting information including text, images and numbers
Working with others: includes process and interpersonal skills to support working cooperatively with others to achieve shared objectives, work cooperatively and have regard for others
Improving own learning and performance: developing independent learners who are clearly focused on what they want to achieve and able to work towards targets that will improve the quality of their learning and performance.
A recent survey from Office team has revealed that soft skills rather than technical skills are often valued more by new employers. The survey involved more than 300 administrative professionals and 400 human resource managers (www.officeteam.com). Soft skills encompass a number of attributes. The following skills are those most valued by the employers in the survey.
Table 2: Skills valued by the employers
Skills valued by the employers
Teamwork and collaboration
Tact and diplomacy
In short, soft skills refer to the cluster of personality traits, social graces, facility with language, personal habits, friendliness, and optimism that mark people to varying degrees. Soft skills complement hard skills, which are the technical requirements of a job. They can be divided into personal qualities and interpersonal skills. The former includes responsibility, self-esteem, sociability, self-management and integrity/honesty while the latter includes participates as a member of the Team, teaches others, serves client / customers, exercises leadership, negotiates and works with cultural diversity.
(U.S.Department of Labor - Employment & Training
The Ministry of Higher Education defines soft skills as skills that complement academic achievement such as positive values, leadership qualities, team working, communication skills and life-long learning.
(MOHE, 2006: 5)
3. Finishing School/Program Concept
Various measures have been initiated by the Ministry of Higher Education to enhance the graduate employability over the past few years that had caused the number of unemployment among graduates of higher education institution to decrease year by year. One of the measures initiated was the 'Finishing School Programs' that are carried out in Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM). As mentioned by Y.B. Dato' Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin, Minister of Higher Education Malaysia during the Seminar On "Enhancing Graduate Employability: Issues, Concerns and the Way Forward (July, 2009)". "By assessing the effectiveness of the various programmes implemented so far, we can also identify the best practices by institutions and to use them as a model to be implemented by others. From my observations example of best practices are the finishing school programs by Universiti Putra Malaysia. Because of the success of this program, I would recommend that initiative to be further extent its implementation by other institutions and also among unemployed graduate at the community colleges."
In order to respond to the suggestion by the Ministry of Higher Education and also the challenges given out by the employers in the job market of fresh graduates, The Co-curriculum Centre of UPM has initiated a serial program called the "Finishing School Program". This program was officially offered to all final semester students in UPM starting from the final year students in the academic session of 2007/2008. The objective of this program is to produce graduates who are marketable and confident as expected by their employers.
This particular program has a module that is inclusive of five units that is used to strengthen the seven cores soft skills required in a student, that had already been inculcate through co-curriculum activities that has already been carried out by the university and participated by the students before attending the finishing school program. The five unit as in the module is:
Unit 1: Group communication
Unit 2: Presentation skills
Unit 3: Guide to job application
Unit 4: Writing resumes and cover letter
Unit 5: Interview skills
The program is carried out through duration of 14 hours in a time span of two days or two sessions each in 7 hours. This particular program is conducted 100% in English, as a way to improve the command of English usage among the final year students.
The program uses a student oriented approach, where the facilitator would facilitate in a way that they are friendly and open minded during the interactions with the students. This is done so, in order to encourage the students that are attending the program to be more participative in what is planned in the module for them. Whereas, on the strategy in conducting the module it uses the strategy of 70% practical and 30% lecture. It is conduct in this way, so that students that are involved would not be easily bored with the module.
The facilitators of the program are UPM's academic staffs with the title DS 45 and above. These facilitators are to attend and complete the Training of Trainers program for the Finishing School. Other than that, one of the most important criteria would be that, these facilitators have to be fluent in English as, the entire program is conducted fully in English.
During the first Finishing School that was conducted in the academic session of 2007/2008 a number of 4,154 or 68.4% of the final semester students attended the programs. Whereas, 116 facilitators are involved directly and indirectly in conducting this particular program. On the second finishing school, it shows an increment of 9.6% to 78% followed by the third with 4,395 students attending and 141 facilitators are involved.
4. Framework of the study
Independent variables Dependent variable
Types of Degree conferred
Academic Result (CGPA)
English Language efficiency
Critical and creative thinking
Professional ethics and value
Figure 3: Framework of study
Quantitative in nature, the proposed study is to examine the effectiveness of the program/concept of Finishing School. The effectiveness of the program will be studied primarily through the use of a structured questionnaire as instruments. This chapter describes the methodology used to attain the aims of the study. The includes information on (1) research design of the study, (2) the target of population, (3) the sample size and sampling technique (4) reliability and validity, (5) data collection procedures and (6) data analysis procedures The objective of this was to examine the level effectiveness of the program, the reason why graduates are still unemployed and the level of the graduate's skills before and after the program.
A research design provides the basic directions or "recipe for carrying out the project. The reasons why researchers choose a research design that will provide relevant information on the research questions or hypotheses that will complete the job most efficiently. Quantitative data are measurements in which numbers are used directly to represent the characteristics of something.
In this study the descriptive research is chosen to obtain data that describes the characteristics of the variables. Descriptive research designs are usually structured and specially designed to measure the variables in the study. Since the study involves two different variables which are dependent and independent variables.
This descriptive study is chosen to allow a quantitative description of the relevant features of the data collected as well as relationships between the variables.
The data would be collected using the purposive sampling method. Data for the study was collected through questionnaire developed would be adopted from the Ministry of Higher Education Tracer study's questionnaire. The descriptive statistics used would be frequently distribution, measures of central tendency.
The scope of the population has to be defined and as such, the researcher must specify the exact indicators that define a population's characteristics, so that it would be define whether the person is considered eligible or not as a respondent. Hence, a sample could be selected; the target population must be able to represent the entire population in order for the results of the study to be generalized.
The target population for this study consists of 5,984 graduates from the 33rd session of UPM convocation.
It would be impossible to include the whole population of the graduates that of the class of 2009.
Ary, et al., (1996) has mentioned that a sample is generally enough to study the entire phenomenon. The most important element is the sample drawn from the population must be representative so that it allows the researcher to make generalization from the sample statistics to the population. In addition due to time and resources factors it does not permit the study of the whole population. Therefore, a sample is required from the target population. The sample selection will be further elaborated in the sample size section.
Sample size and Sampling Technique
In order to conduct any research, the sample size needs to be determined first because it affects the sampling error (Williams, 2002).
The population sampled consisted of bachelor graduates of the 33rd convocation session of Universiti Putra Malaysia. The entire population of the graduates are 5, 984 person. In, this research the purposive sampling method was used to determine the samples to be used. For purposive sampling specific predefined groups are seek. Therefore, for this study the criteria for a respondent to be chosen are that the respondent had already graduated from Universiti Putra Malaysia in the 33rd convocation. So, according to the estimation of sample size in research using Krejcie and Morgan is a commonly employed method. Krejcie and Morgan (1970) used the following formula to determine sampling size:
S = X2NP (1-P)/ d2 (N-1) + X2P(1-P)
S = required sample size
X2 = the table value of chi-square for one degree of freedom at the desired
N = the population size
P = the population proportion (assumed to be .50 since this would provide the
maximum sample size)
d = the degree of accuracy expressed as a proportion (.05)
Therefore the sample size of this research according to the Krejcie and Morgan sampling method is 2500.
Pilot Testing Procedure
The questionnaire would be pre-test on a group of undergraduate students that had undergone the Finishing School Program. This sample would not be included in the final researched data analysis as these universities. A total sample of 10 respondents would be used in this process.
An instrument is said to be reliable if it yields similar results when used repeatedly, regardless of opportunities for variations to occur (Nunnally & Bernstein, 1994). In other words, the reliable instrument will produce consistent results when used again by different people and at different times, meaning that reliability is the degree to which an instrument consistently measures whatever it measures. This allows a reliable instrument that is developed for one particular used can be applied for other related circumstances.
Reliability of an instrument can be assessed by the stability measure, equivalence measures, and internal consistency measure (Emory & Cooper, 1991). In terms of stability measure, an instrument is said to be stable if we can secure consistent results with repeated measurements of the same person with the same instrument. As such, the test retest method is normally used to assess the stability. However, this method is not used in this study due to time and resource constraint.
One method of assessing the internal consistency of an instrument is using Cronbach's coefficient alpha. It is represented by a value of 0 to 1, with 1 representing the maximum estimate of reliability. A coefficient of over 0.90 would be acceptable to any instrument, and the generally agreed upon lower limit for Cronbach's alpha is 0.70 (George & Mallory, 2003).
Therefore, a reliability and validity analysis would be done on the questionnaire to look at its reliability.
The methodology used for collecting the data would consist of primary and secondary data collection method. Primary data collection method would be collected using the survey method using a questionnaire which would be adapted from the MOHE Graduate Tracer Study's questionnaire. Which the collection of data from the original sources which the data filled in the questionnaire by the respondent.
Whereas, the secondary data collection method would be done through referring to books, journal, thesis, past research, conference papers, newspaper cuttings in a few libraries as well as through the internet.
Data analyses Procedure
Data obtained from the respondents were coded in the computer using the SPSS 16.0 software. The data for this study consist of nominal, ordinal, and interval measurement. The socio-demography includes personnel profile such as gender, age, current CGPA, race and religion. All the socio-demographic variables were performed descriptive analysis.
The variables measured in interval data using the five-point Likert type scales were design for computing the means. This allows the usage of parametric test, such as Pearson Product Moment Correlation analysis.