ENHANCING WORKING LIFE COMPETENCES IN HIGHER EDUCATION – GENERIC SKILLS AND MULTIPROFESSIONALITY IN THE JUNIOR ACHIEVEMENT COMPANY PROGRAM
Åbo Akademi university (FINLAND)
About this paper:
Conference name: 10th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 7-9 March, 2016
Location: Valencia, Spain
Abstract:Employability has come into the spotlight of education in the past decade after a growing amount of reports have highlighted an increasing gap between the skills of young people and the skill demands of employers. As working life becomes more knowledge based, it is increasingly characterized by almost continuous change and turmoil and high intensity of work (Ruohotie 2000). This requires not only completely new working life competences, such as information-processing, high-level cognitive and interpersonal competencecs (OECD, 2013), but also competences related to regulating thinking, actions and life in general (Wyn, 2009; OECD, 2013). Our understanding of how we work, where we work and when we work is changing (Tremblay, 2003). All these changes have initiated a discussion about the competences needed in future working life as well as the role of education in providing these competences to young people (see for instance Forrier & Sels, 2003; Trana 2015; Holmes, 2013).
Higher education has responded with different efforts in order to enhance the employability of their students (Billett 2012; Oprean 2007; Tynjälä, Välimaa, and Sarja 2003; Green, Hammer, and Star 2009; Holmes 2013; Tomlinson 2010; Tymon 2011). Also many non-government actors have started providing support for the schools, and one of the bigger actors in Finland is Junior Achievement.
This research focuses on the Junior Achievement Company (henceforth JAC) program, which is a 1-year, 10 ECTS course offered in cooperation by several universities in Southwestern Finland. Students are organized in multiprofessional teams, and each team starts and operates a company during a whole year. The teams are coached during the whole year by teachers. In addition to increasing entrepreneurship in society, Junior Achievement also aims at improving working life competences of young people (JA, 2015).
This study will focus on working life competencies of JAC and research ways in which employability is enhanced during the one-year program. The purpose is to study how the teachers involved in the program perceive which employability skills are trained during the program. Not only does the study provide an insight into the Junior Achievement company program from an employability perspective, the study also offers an insight into what teachers perceive as important working life skills.
Semi structured thematic interviews have been conducted with 15 teachers involved in the junior achievement company program. For comparative purposes, half of the respondents are teachers from higher education and half of are teachers at the gymnasium level. Comparing these two groups is interesting because students taught by higher education teachers are closer to entering working-life than students being taught by gymnasium level teachers.
Keywords: Working life skills, employability, generic skills, multiprofessionality.