Hostname: page-component-5d59c44645-jqctd Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-02-24T23:47:07.423Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

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*
Affiliation:
Department of Economics and Marketing, James Cook University, Townsville, Australia
Lynne Eagle
Affiliation:
Department of Economics and Marketing, James Cook University, Townsville, Australia
*
*Corresponding author. E-mail: breda.mccarthy@jcu.edu.au

Abstract

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.

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

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

References

Abbasi, F.K., Ali, A., & Bibi, N. (2018). Analysis of skill gap for business graduates: Managerial perspective from banking industry. Education+ Training, 60, 354367.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Aikens, K., McKenzie, M., & Vaughter, P. (2016). Environmental and sustainability education policy research: A systematic review of methodological and thematic trends. Environmental Education Research, 22, 333359.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Aleixo, A.M., Leal, S., & Azeiteiro, U.M. (2016). Conceptualization of sustainable higher education institutions, roles, barriers, and challenges for sustainability: An exploratory study in Portugal. Journal of Cleaner Production, 172, 16641673.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ali, A., Murphy, H., & Nadkarni, S. (2017). Sustainable development and hospitality education: employers’ perspectives on the relevance for graduate employability. Journal of Teaching in Travel & Tourism, 17, 159172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Almeida, S.C., Moore, D., & Barnes, M. (2018). Teacher identities as key to environmental education for sustainability implementation: A study from Australia. Australian Journal of Environmental Education, 34, 228243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Backman, M., Pitt, H., Marsden, T., Mehmood, A., & Mathijs, E. (2019). Experiential approaches to sustainability education: Towards learning landscapes. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 20, 139156.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Baird, A.M., & Parayitam, S. (2019). Employers’ ratings of importance of skills and competencies college graduates need to get hired. Education+ Training, 61, 622634.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Barth, M., Godemann, J., Rieckmann, M., & Stoltenberg, U. (2007). Developing key competencies for sustainable development in higher education. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 8, 416430.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Beattie, V. IV, Collins, B., & McInnes, B. (1997). Deep and surface learning: A simple or simplistic dichotomy? Accounting Education, 6, 112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Benton-Short, L., & Merrigan, K. A. (2016). Beyond interdisciplinary: How sustainability creates opportunities for pan-university efforts. Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, 6, 387398.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bhattacharyya, A., & Biswas, K. (2020). Core attributes of pro-environmental managers and dynamics of environmental management. Australian Journal of Environmental Education, 1, 6984.Google Scholar
Bigg, M., Brooks, I., Clayton, W., Darwen, J., Gough, G., Hyland, F., … & Willmore, C. (2018). Bridging the gap: a case study of a partnership approach to skills development through student engagement in Bristol’s Green Capital year. Higher Education Pedagogies, 3, 417428.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bodkin-Andrews, G., & Carlson, B. (2016). The legacy of racism and Indigenous Australian identity within education. Race Ethnicity and Education, 19, 784807.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bremer, M. H., & López-Franco, R. (2006). Sustainable development: Ten years of experience at ITESM’s graduate level. Journal of Cleaner Production, 14, 952957.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Brennan, R. (2004). Should we worry about an “academic-practitioner divide” in marketing? Marketing Intelligence & Planning, 22, 492500.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Brundiers, K., Barth, M., Cebrián, G., Cohen, M., Diaz, L., Doucette-Remington, S., … & Zint, M. (2021). Key competencies in sustainability in higher education—Toward an agreed-upon reference framework. Sustainability Science, 16, 1329.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Caggiano, V., Schleutker, K., Petrone, L., & González-Bernal, J. (2020). Towards identifying the soft skills needed in Curricula: Finnish and Italian students’ self-evaluations indicate differences between groups. Sustainability, 12, 4031.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cebrián Bernat, G., Segalàs Coral, J., & Hernández Gómez, M. (2019). Assessment of sustainability competencies: A literature review and future pathways for ESD research and practice. Central European Review of Economics and Management, 3, 1944.Google Scholar
Chouinard, H.H., Wandschneider, P.R., & Paterson, T. (2016). Inferences from sparse data: An integrated, meta-utility approach to conservation research. Ecological Economics, 122, 7178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Clokie, T. L., & Fourie, E. (2016). Graduate employability and communication competence: Are undergraduates taught relevant skills? Business and Professional Communication Quarterly, 79, 442463.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cole, D. R., & Malone, K. (2019). Environmental education and philosophy in the Anthropocene. Australian Journal of Environmental Education, 35, 157162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Crutzen, P. J. (2006). The “anthropocene”. In Ehlers, E. & Krafft, T. (Eds.), Earth system science in the anthropocene (pp. 1318). Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Crutzen, P. J., & Stoermer, E. F. (2000). Global change newsletter. The Anthropocene, 41, 1718.Google Scholar
De Haan, G. (2006). The BLK ‘21’ programme in Germany: A ‘Gestaltungskompetenz’ based model for education for sustainable development. Environmental Education Research, 12, 1932.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Eagle, L., Low, D., Case, P., & Vandommele, L. (2015). Attitudes of undergraduate business students toward sustainability issues. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 16, 650668.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Edwards, M., Brown, P., Benn, S., Bajada, C., Perey, R., Cotton, D., … & Waite, K. (2020). Developing sustainability learning in business school curricula–productive boundary objects and participatory processes. Environmental Education Research, 26, 253274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Evans, C., Kandiko Howson, C., & Forsythe, A. (2018). Making sense of learning gain in higher education. Higher Education Pedagogies, 3, 145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Farinha, C. S., Caeiro, S. S., & Azeiteiro, U. (2020). Universities speak up regarding the implementation of sustainable development challenges. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 20, 13431357.Google Scholar
Finch, D., Nadeau, J., & O’Reilly, N. (2013). The future of marketing education: A practitioner’s perspective. Journal of Marketing Education, 35, 5467.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Finch, D. J., Hamilton, L. K., Baldwin, R., & Zehner, M. (2013). An exploratory study of factors affecting undergraduate employability. Education+ Training, 55, 681704.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Furstenau, L. B., Sott, M. K., Kipper, L. M., Machado, E. L., Lopez-Robles, J. R., Dohan, M. S., … & Imran, M. A. (2020). Link between sustainability and industry 4.0: trends, challenges and new perspectives. Ieee Access, 8, 140079140096.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gale, F., Davison, A., Wood, G., Williams, S., & Towle, N. (2015). Four impediments to embedding education for sustainability in higher education. Australian Journal of Environmental Education, 31, 248263.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ghobakhloo, M. (2020). Industry 4.0, digitization, and opportunities for sustainability. Journal of Cleaner Production, 252, 119869.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Giangrande, N., White, R. M., East, M., Jackson, R., Clarke, T., Saloff Coste, M., & Penha-Lopes, G. (2019). A competency framework to assess and activate education for sustainable development: Addressing the UN sustainable development goals 4.7 challenge. Sustainability, 11, 2832.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
González-Gaudiano, E. J. (2006). Environmental education: a field in tension or in transition? Environmental Education Research, 12, 291300.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Goody, E. (2002). The roles of knowledge and policy in contributions of research on education to development: Observations on social anthropological research for the 21st century. Cambridge Anthropology, 23, 119.Google Scholar
Gosset, W.S. (1909). The probable error of a mean. Biometrika, 6: 125.Google Scholar
Green, W., Hammer, S., & Star, C. (2009). Facing up to the challenge: why is it so hard to develop graduate attributes? Higher Education Research & Development, 28, 1729.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Greig, A., & Priddle, J. (2019). Mapping students’ development in response to sustainability education: A conceptual model. Sustainability, 11, 4324.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Grover, R., Emmitt, S., & Copping, A. (2019). Reflecting on sustainability: Coproducing a critical framework for sustainable design in the architectural studio. Higher Education Pedagogies, 4, 4163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hay, R., & Eagle, L. (2020). Impact of integrated sustainability content into undergraduate business education. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 21, 131143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Heiskanen, E., Thidell, Å., & Rodhe, H. (2016). Educating sustainability change agents: The importance of practical skills and experience. Journal of Cleaner Production, 123, 218226.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Helyer, R. (2011). Aligning higher education with the world of work. Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning, 1(2), 95105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hernández-March, J., Del Peso, M. M., & Leguey, S. (2009). Graduates’ skills and higher education: The employers’ perspective. Tertiary Education and Management, 15, 116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hesselbarth, C., & Schaltegger, S. (2014). Educating change agents for sustainability–learnings from the first sustainability management master of business administration. Journal of Cleaner Production, 62, 2436.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jackson, D. (2014). Testing a model of undergraduate competence in employability skills and its implications for stakeholders. Journal of Education and Work, 27, 220242.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jackson, D., & Chapman, E. (2012). Non-technical competencies in undergraduate business degree programs: Australian and UK perspectives. Studies in Higher Education, 37, 541567.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
James, L. T., & Casidy, R. (2016). Authentic assessment in business education: its effects on student satisfaction and promoting behaviour. Studies in Higher Education, 43, 115.Google Scholar
Jelonek, M., & Urbaniec, M. (2019). Development of sustainability competencies for the labour market: An exploratory qualitative study. Sustainability, 11, 5716.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jurdi-Hage, R., Hage, H. S., & Chow, H. P. (2019). Cognitive and behavioural environmental concern among university students in a Canadian city: Implications for institutional interventions. Australian Journal of Environmental Education, 35, 2861.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Karakaya, E., & Sriwannawit, P. (2015). Barriers to the adoption of photovoltaic systems: The state of the art. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 49, 6066.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Karatzoglou, B. (2013). An in-depth literature review of the evolving roles and contributions of universities to education for sustainable development. Journal of Cleaner Production, 49, 4453.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kelley, S., & Nahser, R. (2014). Developing sustainable strategies: foundations, method, and pedagogy. Journal of Business Ethics, 123, 631644.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kemper, J. A., Ballantine, P. W., & Hall, C. M. (2019). Combining the ‘why’and ‘how’of teaching sustainability: the case of the business school academics. Environmental Education Research, 25, 124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kennelly, J., Taylor, N., & Serow, P. (2011). Education for sustainability and the Australian curriculum. Australian Journal of Environmental Education, 27, 209218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
König, A., & Evans, J. (2013). Introduction: Experimenting for sustainable development? Living laboratories, social learning and the role of the university. In König, A. (Ed.) Regenerative sustainable development of universities and cities (pp. 124). Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing.Google Scholar
Lans, T., Blok, V., & Wesselink, R. (2014). Learning apart and together: Towards an integrated competence framework for sustainable entrepreneurship in higher education. Journal of Cleaner Production, 62, 3747.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Levin, K., Cashore, B., Bernstein, S., & Auld, G. (2012). Overcoming the tragedy of super wicked problems: Constraining our future selves to ameliorate global climate change. Policy Sciences, 45, 123152.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lozano, R., Lukman, R., Lozano, F. J., Huisingh, D., & Lambrechts, W. (2013). Declarations for sustainability in higher education: Becoming better leaders, through addressing the university system. Journal of Cleaner Production, 48, 1019.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
MacDonald, L., & Shriberg, M. (2016). Sustainability leadership programs in higher education: alumni outcomes and impacts. Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, 6, 360370.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
MacVaugh, J., & Norton, M. (2012). Introducing sustainability into business education contexts using active learning. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 23, 7287.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
McKenzie, M. (2012). Education for y’all: Global neoliberalism and the case for a politics of scale in sustainability education policy. Policy Futures in Education, 10, 165177.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
McMurray, S., Dutton, M., McQuaid, R., & Richard, A. (2016). Employer demands from business graduates. Education+ Training, 58, 112132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Michelsen, G., & Adomssent, M. (2007). Education for sustainable development strategies in German universities. In Wals, A. E. (Ed.), From cosmetic reform to meaningful integration: Implementing education for sustainable development in higher education institutes – The state of affairs in Six European countries (pp. 2124). Amsterdam: DHO.Google Scholar
Murillo-Luna, J. L., Garcés-Ayerbe, C., & Rivera-Torres, P. (2011). Barriers to the adoption of proactive environmental strategies. Journal of Cleaner Production, 19, 14171425.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Muroi, S. K., & Bertone, E. (2019). From thoughts to actions: The importance of climate change education in enhancing students’ self-efficacy. Australian Journal of Environmental Education, 35, 123144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Nikolaou, I. E., & Tsalis, T. (2018). A framework to evaluate eco-and social-labels for designing a sustainability consumption label to measure strong sustainability impact of firms/products. Journal of Cleaner Production, 182, 105113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Nord, J. H., Koohang, A., & Paliszkiewicz, J. (2019). The internet of things: Review and theoretical framework. Expert Systems with Applications, 133, 97108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Orinos, N. (2012). Skills and competencies. International Journal of Business and Social Research, 2, 5372.Google Scholar
Osagie, E. R., Wesselink, R., Blok, V., Lans, T., & Mulder, M. (2016). Individual competencies for corporate social responsibility: A literature and practice perspective. Journal of Business Ethics, 135, 233252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Parry, S. B. (1996). Just what is a competency?(And why should you care?). Training, 35, 58.Google Scholar
Pompeii, B., Chiu, Y., Neill, D., Braun, D., Fiegel, G., Oulton, R., … & Kylee Singh, K. (2019). Identifying and overcoming barriers to integrating sustainability across the curriculum at a teaching-oriented university. Sustainability, 11, 2652.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Purcell, W. M., Henriksen, H., & Spengler, J. D. (2019). Universities as the engine of transformational sustainability toward delivering the sustainable development goals. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 20, 13431357.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rieckmann, M. (2012). Future-oriented higher education: Which key competencies should be fostered through university teaching and learning? Futures, 44, 127135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ripple, W. J., Wolf, C., Newsome, T. M., Barnard, P., & Moomaw, W. R. (2019). World scientists’ warning of a climate emergency. BioScience, 20, 15.Google Scholar
Sandri, O. (2020). Providing a ‘point of entry’: Approaches to framing sustainability in curriculum design in higher education. Australian Journal of Environmental Education, 37, 113.Google Scholar
Sauro, J., & Lewis, J. R. (2016). Quantifying the user experience: Practical statistics for user research. Amsterdam: Elsevier.Google Scholar
Sedlacek, S. (2013). The role of universities in fostering sustainable development at the regional level. Journal of Cleaner Production, 48, 7484.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sidiropoulos, E. (2014). Education for sustainability in business education programs: A question of value. Journal of Cleaner Production, 85, 472487.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sleurs, W. (2008). Competencies for ESD (Education for Sustainable Development) teachers. A framework to integrate ESD in the curriculum of teacher training institutes. Comenius 2.1 project 118277–CP–1–2004–BE–Comenius–C 2.1.Google Scholar
Soini, K., Korhonen-Kurki, K., & Asikainen, H. (2019). Transactional learning and sustainability co-creation in a university–business collaboration. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 20, 965984.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sultana, R. G. (2009). Competence and competence frameworks in career guidance: Complex and contested concepts. International Journal for Educational and Vocational Guidance, 9, 1530.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Smith, C., & Watson, P. (2019). Does the rise of STEM education mean the demise of sustainability education? Australian Journal of Environmental Education, 35, 111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
State of the Tropics (2017). Sustainable infrastructure for the Tropics. Townsville, Australia: James Cook University.Google Scholar
Stanitsas, M., Kirytopoulos, K., & Vareilles, E. (2019). Facilitating sustainability transition through serious games: A systematic literature review. Journal of Cleaner Production, 208, 924936.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Stevenson, R. B. (2007). Schooling and environmental education: Contradictions in purpose and practice. Environmental Education Research, 13, 139153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Stewart, J., Gold, J., Gray, D. E., Iles, P., & Watson, S. (2011). Spanning the HRD academic-practitioner divide: Bridging the gap through mode 2 research. Journal of European Industrial Training, 35, 247263.Google Scholar
Sustainable Development Goals (n.d). Sustainable development goals. https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/topics/sustainabledevelopmentgoals Google Scholar
Teijeiro, M., Rungo, P., & Freire, M. J. (2013). Graduate competencies and employability: The impact of matching firms’ needs and personal attainments. Economics of Education Review, 34, 286295.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Thomas, I., Barth, M., & Day, T. (2013). Education for sustainability, graduate capabilities, professional employment: How they all connect. Australian Journal of Environmental Education, 29, 3351.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tilbury, D. (2004). Rising to the challenge: Education for sustainability in Australia. Australian Journal of Environmental Education, 20, 103114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tomas, L., Mills, R., Rigano, D., & Sandhu, M. (2019). Education for sustainable development in the senior Earth and Environmental Science syllabus in Queensland, Australia. Australian Journal of Environmental Education, 36, 4462.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
UNESCO (2012). Shaping the education of tomorrow – 2012 full-length report on the united decade of education for sustainable development. Paris: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.Google Scholar
Valley, W., Anderson, M., Blackstone, N. T., Sterling, E., Betley, E., Akabas, S., … & Iles, A. (2020). Towards an equity competency model for sustainable food systems education programs. Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene, 8, 116.Google Scholar
Verhoef, L. A., Bossert, M., Newman, J., Ferraz, F., Robinson, Z. P., Agarwala, Y., … & Hellinga, C. (2020). Towards a learning system for University Campuses as Living Labs for sustainability. In Walter, L.F., et al., (Eds.), Universities as living labs for sustainable development (pp. 135149). Cham: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Walker, C. (2017). Tomorrow’s leaders and today’s agents of change? Children, sustainability education and environmental governance. Children & Society, 31, 7283.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Waring, T. M., Sullivan, A. V., & Stapp, J. R. (2016). Campus prosociality as a sustainability indicator. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 17, 895916.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wiek, A., Bernstein, M., Foley, R., Cohen, M., Forrest, N., Kuzdas, C., … & Withycombe Keeler, L. (2015). Operationalising competencies in higher education for sustainable development. In Barth, M., Michelsen, G., Rieckmann, M., Thomas, I. (Eds.), Handbook of higher education for sustainable development (pp. 241260). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
Wiek, A., Withycombe, L., & Redman, C. L. (2011). Key competencies in sustainability: A reference framework for academic program development. Sustainability Science, 6, 203218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wickramasinghe, V., & Perera, L. (2010). Graduates’, university lecturers’ and employers’ perceptions towards employability skills. Education+ Training, 52, 226244.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Winfield, F., & Ndlovu, T. (2019). Future-proof your degree: Embedding sustainability and employability at Nottingham Business School (NBS). International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 20, 13291342.CrossRefGoogle Scholar