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Are the sustainability-oriented skills and competencies of business graduates meeting or missing employers’ needs? Perspectives of regional employers

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 July 2021

Breda McCarthy*
Department of Economics and Marketing, James Cook University, Townsville, Australia
Lynne Eagle
Department of Economics and Marketing, James Cook University, Townsville, Australia
*Corresponding author. E-mail:


In the Anthropocene, universities play a role in developing students’ sustainability literacy and capacity to solve socio-ecological challenges. The objective of this study is to identify the generic and sustainability-oriented skills and competencies required of business graduates by regional employers. The regional focus meets a gap in the literature. An online survey of employers in North Queensland found that they attach importance to a wide range of skills and competencies and see sustainability as a key factor in future business success. Yet, there are contradictions in terms of their support for sustainability in the curriculum and business practices, particularly when it comes to the recruitment and selection process. Furthermore, contradictions exist between the university’s adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the weak interest displayed by prospective employers in graduates’ sustainability literacy. This study has important implications for regional universities. A reframing of the role of sustainability education in the curriculum is warranted, where a deeper connection is made between sustainability education and the values employers already hold. Recommendations for curriculum designers are made on how to foster and assess the competencies that business graduates need to meet the demands of regional business upon entering the labour market.

© The Author(s) 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press

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