Perceptions of Transferable Skills among Biomedical Science Students in the Final-Year of Their Degree: What are the Implications for Graduate Employability?

Maria Carmel Demaria, Yvonne Hodgson, Daniel Peter Czech

Abstract


Faced with growing career uncertainty, science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) graduates are increasingly reliant on transferable skills, including communication, teamwork and critical thinking, to thrive in a dynamic, unpredictable workforce. While discipline-specific technical skills and knowledge remain cornerstones for STEM graduates, the ability to use transferable skills to adapt to changing work paradigms is an increasingly valuable competency. However, the relevance of transferable ‘employability’ skills to employment within STEM disciplines is often overlooked in teaching. We examined final-year Biomedical Science student perceptions of necessary work capabilities, prior to, and following, a compulsory capstone unit with a central focus on developing transferable skills. Results from pre- and post-unit surveys showed that students; 1) rated transferable skills over discipline knowledge or technical skills for future employment, 2) rated communication skills as most important in future careers, 3) felt that they had improved their transferable skills throughout their degree, 4) developed these skills in both assessed and non-assessed learning activities, and 5) could identify specific examples of transferable skills found in workplaces. We suggest an explicit focus on transferable skills, using capstone units of STEM degrees, to develop transferable skills in final-year students and consequently improve graduate employability and future work success.

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