Employability skills: What is required of consumer sciences graduates?
High unemployment rates, constantly changing market environments and competition among graduates for employment compels a focus on relevant employability skills to ensure employment. The literature has indicated that graduates’ employability skills are lacking. There is currently no national board in South Africa describing which skills consumer science students should acquire. The aim of this study was to describe the employability skills consumer science employers require from their employees, and the skills consumer science students and graduates currently lack. A voluntary, anonymous questionnaire survey was completed by consumer science employers (61), lecturers (13), current students (91) and graduates in the workplace (101) to determine which employability skills they thought were needed to succeed in the work environment and to determine their perceptions regarding students’ competency in these skills. Questionnaires were completed online or in paper format to ensure maximum response (51% response rate overall with varying response rates depending on the group). The data underwent descriptive and inferential statistical analysis. The different respondent groups’ opinions regarding the required skills were compared and the skills that students should attain were determined. Although opinions differed slightly regarding the importance of different employability skills, all groups agreed that 11 skills were crucial and highlighted the importance of cultural awareness in the workplace. Employers identified communication, problem solving and time management skills as the three most valued skills. There were significant differences among the groups about students’ competence in different skills. Whereas students mostly viewed themselves as extremely competent, their lecturers and employers thought them to be less so. Identifying the skills necessary in the workplace will enable universities to deliver more employable graduates.