Does Entrepreneurship and Innovative Education Matter to Increase Employability Skills?: A Framework Based on the Evidence From Five European Countries

Does Entrepreneurship and Innovative Education Matter to Increase Employability Skills?: A Framework Based on the Evidence From Five European Countries

Elisabeth T. Pereira (Universidade de Aveiro, Portugal), Madalena Villas-Boas (Universidade de Aveiro, Portugal) and Cátia C. Rebelo (Universidade de Aveiro, Portugal & University of Cardiff, UK)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 14
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7675-4.ch013

Abstract

The present study proposes a framework of key skills to improve the HEIs current curricula through entrepreneurship and innovative education. The approach is based on a questionnaire applied to key stakeholders, students (from economics, business and engineering subject field of studies) and academics, from five European countries. The results allow to identify the graduates' skills shortages and the best covered skills in current curricula. Those skills are in accordance with the 21st century skills and constitute the foundation of the proposed framework that suggests that this mix of skills should be integrated and implemented into the curricula degrees of HEIs, through a group of innovative and entrepreneurship education initiatives to promote graduates' employability.
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Introduction

The high levels of unemployment registered after the European economic crisis of 2008, in particular among recent graduates, led to an increasing worry among policymakers and scholars regarding this problem. European Union (EU) in collaboration with member state governments, institutions and scholars established a list of skills that graduates’ need to possess for the 21st century, thus trying to equip students with the skills and competences that fulfill the needs of the current and potential labour markets.

EU through the Europe Strategy 2020, in particular based in the flagship of ‘New Skills and Jobs’, tries to stimulate and anticipate the changes in the skills needed for the future at a higher education level. This policies and measures led to reforms meant to stimulate entrepreneurship and innovation through education, with the aim of improving university technological knowledge as well the knowledge transfer to the productive sector and to the society. With this concerns in mind, High Education Institutions (HEIs) became aware of the need to develop tools such as entrepreneurship and innovative forms of education to a better impart the adequate mix of skills that graduates need to enter in the labour market and to be successful as well more competitive professionally.

The present chapter has as main purpose to contribute to the skills agenda debate, as well as to improve universities’ assessing, mapping and reporting employability skills outcomes, proposing a mix of key skills framework, which may be used to inform and structure entrepreneurship and innovation education in the current curricula. The skills framework, based on these objectives, has been developed and applied within the EuropeHome project1. To reach the chapter main propose, the authors define a set of questions that they tried to answer with the empirical applied study that involved 1507 students and academics from five European universities:

  • Which skills do students consider they need the most in order to get a job in their own fields?

  • Which skills do students consider were most improved at the university?

  • Which skills academics consider the students need the most in order to get a job in their own fields?

  • Which skills academics consider were most improved at the university?

  • How can HEIs deal with the gaps found?

From the data obtained were identified the graduates’ skills shortages as well as the best covered skills in the current HEIs curricula. The skills identified were: personal, interpersonal, communication, intercultural, thinking and entrepreneurial skills. These skills mix are the foundation of the project proposed framework that should be integrated into the economics, business and engineering academic curricula through a group of innovative and entrepreneurship education initiatives, such as learning materials and e-modules focused on the relevant mix of skills in labour markets for the 21st century, aiming to impart these skills through workshops and interactive learning at HEIs. The final employability skills outcomes must allow a better alignment between graduates' needed skills and the skills best covered in the academic curricula, and thus enhancing graduates' future employability.

After this introduction, the following section addresses the literature review, focusing the graduates’ employability importance and the skills needed in the current labour market to achieve that employability, and also the adopted framework of entrepreneurship and innovative education. In the next section is explained the methodology followed in our research through two subsections, the questionnaire design and the sampling and data collection. A fourth section presents the discussion of our findings and the results about the students’ and academics’ perceptions: which skills students’ lack the most; as well as which skills are best covered in the HEIs curricula. The last section presents the conclusion about the proposed mix of key skills framework and its future implication about the global considerations for entrepreneurship education and training in HEIs and on future employability of its graduates.

Key Terms in this Chapter

The 21st Century Skills: Are a set of skills (hard and soft skills) seen as indispensable in the knowledge society of the 21 st century. These specific skills highlight the importance of team working, communication skills, media literacy, problem solving, creativity, thinking, intercultural skills, responsibility and civic participation.

Employability (of Graduates): Is a complex concept centred on graduates' abilities to adapt to labour market based in the skills (both academic and soft skills) acquired during the frequency of academic degrees at HEIs,

Soft or Personal Skills: Are skills related to personality, attitude and behaviour that may enable students or future graduates to achieve high levels of initiative and to improve innovation to their workplace, allow them to fit successfully in the labour market and to develop effectively their job tasks. It is stated that soft skills could allow graduates to better apply their hard skills.

Balanced Skills: Is a concept based on set of skill related to learning or academic skills soft skills and innate talent skills.

Hard or Academic Skills: Represent the technical and formal knowledge acquired during the frequency of academic degrees.

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