A 21st Century Employability Skills Improvement Framework for the Construction Industry
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A 21st Century Employability Skills Improvement Framework for the Construction Industry

John Aliu, Clinton Aigbavboa, Wellington Thwala

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eBook - ePub

A 21st Century Employability Skills Improvement Framework for the Construction Industry

John Aliu, Clinton Aigbavboa, Wellington Thwala

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About This Book

This book will provide readers with an understanding of the employability concept and develop an employability skills improvement model to enhance the employability of built environment graduates to foster economic development. The developed model determines the influence of generic skills, discipline specific skills, work-integrated learning, emotional intelligence, university-industry collaboration outcomes and 4IR knowledge in predicting the outcomes of improved graduate employability. The model is developed with a theoretical lens on existing frameworks of employability and skills development. Whilst drawing comparisons with countries such as the UK, USA, Australia and Canada, the authors present the results of a two-stage Delphi survey in South Africa as a case study on the current state of skills development and on the skills of the future. The case study is presented in line with the South Africa's long-term National Development Plan (NDP) aimed at developing the key capabilities and skills of its citizens by ensuring quality education on a broader scale by 2030. As automation continues to rapidly advance, the pressures on universities to revamp and restructure their curricula have become increasingly necessary. This book recommends that higher education institutions urgently need to intensify their efforts by introducing significant modifications to the science and technology curriculum to enable students to develop and acquire competencies in the rapidly emerging areas of artificial intelligence, data science, robotics, advanced simulation, data communication, system automation, real-time inventory operations, cloud computing, and information technologies. This implies that universities' curriculum should be infused with 4IR thinking within the conventional primary sciences of biology, chemistry, and physics, with greater emphasis on digital literacy to boost 4IR understanding amongst the graduates. The book is therefore of interest to researchers and policy makers in the built environment that are placed in academia, the construction industry or at consultancy levels, it provides significant recommendations for universities as they intensify their efforts to develop graduates for the future.

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Section II
Employability theories and model development

Theoretical background surrounding employability

Theoretical framework

Human capital theory

As a result of the rapidly developing and ever-changing nature of the construction industry, there is an urgent requirement for graduates who are adequately skilled. Globally, it has been emphasized that it is the sole duty of universities to furnish students with the required skills, knowledge, and competencies. This increases the pressure on the academic setting and its educators with regard to the quality of learning and teaching at the higher education level. As a result of such unprecedented pressure on universities to deliver on their mandate of producing quality graduates, the emphasis on educational approaches has evolved. This is because the required skills students need to develop to solve industry problems effectively today are different from what was needed decades ago. Present-day industry employers seek graduates with good academic skills in addition to numerous non-academic skills, including communication, problem-solving, interpersonal team skills, and leadership skills, amongst others. Hence, learning design approaches, as well as conducive learning environments, must support the development of the skills mentioned previously. Thus, the urgency to find innovative and pedagogical ways of developing present-day students to ensure a seamless transition into industry positions has taken on a new dimension. As a result, several modern educational strategies such as collaborative learning, self-directed learning, experiential-based learning, and active learning, amongst others, have emerged.
In understanding the concept and essence of graduate employability, several theories across various disciplines have been discussed extensively. Among these philosophies is the consensus theory. This theory is centred on the belief that encouraging skills’ development among the human capital will certainly guarantee graduate employability and fast-tracked career growth at the workplace (Becker, 1964; Selvadurai et al., 2012). Hence, in the realization of this book, the human capital theory is adopted as the guiding theoretical framework. The justification for its adoption is that this study is essentially concerned with equipping built environment students as they are the future of the construction industry. This study assumes that employability skills enable individuals to become more flexible and adaptable to the varying demands of the industry, which results in increased productivity to themselves and their employers. This contextual assumption is supported by Hitt et al. (2001) and Nafukho et al. (2004). At the core of this theory is the notion that skilled individuals are an important production factor that is worth investing in to yield dividends to themselves as well as to the immediate society in which they find themselves (Jackson and Chapman, 2012; Aliu and Aigbavboa, 2017). Thus, Van Loo and Rocco (2004) refer to human capital as an ‘investment in knowledge and skills’. Kleynhans (2006) supports this perspective by stating that ‘human capital can provide a country with a competitive edge that could lead to economic growth and enhance everyone’s welfare’.
Several researchers have described human capital as a multidimensional concept. However, this study employs a critical approach to provide a better understanding of the theory. According to Ben-Porath (1967), Garavan et al. (2001), and Omar et al. (2012), human capital describes the ability of individuals to display adequate knowledge as well as exhibit competencies in carrying out industry tasks efficiently and effectively. Also, Ben-Porath (1967) asserts that the success of the construction industry is dependent on the successful recruitment, development, and retaining of the best human capital, which is essential for sustaining the future. Benhabib and Spiegel (1994) similarly opine that employee value is highlighted by the skill, knowledge, and experience they exhibit. Hence, employees are considered human capital because they cannot be separated from these values. Moreover, employers are faced with the daunting task of reacting to a continuously changing and fast-paced work setting as the survival of the construction industry remains paramount (Stice, 2011). This scenario has increased the need for more industry-ready graduates, hence placing increased pressure on higher education training systems to deliver (Omar et al., 2012). Another major assumption of the human capital theory is that it emphasizes education as an important stimulator of any given economy (Bridgstock, 2009), and identifies labour as an appropriate tool to carry out production process (Mohr and Seymore, 2012). There has also been evidence that a higher level of training will result in individuals with higher qualifications to meet construction industry needs (Mihail, 2006; Russel et al., 2007; Dacre Pool and Sewell, 2007; Stþren and Aamodt, 2010). In addition, Nafukho et al. (2004) argue that investment in human capital can positively influence the industry as well as society. Therefore, human capital theorists suggest that an educated and well-informed population is ultimately a productive one. Considering the dynamism of the construction industry, it is expected that human capital be trained to be flexible, adaptable, and skilled to be responsive to the changing demands of industry. According to the human capital theory, industry productivity is guaranteed if a graduate possesses the requisite skills which can lead to both individual and economic benefits. One key question emanating from this discussion is how employability skills can be further developed among built environment students in South Africa and beyond. This book seeks to address this question. This study is of the view that construction education in South Africa and beyond can be improved and structured in such a manner to meet the employability skills demand of students. This will enable them to acquire the right skills to become more employable when seeking jobs in the labour market. This apparent skills’ importance has prompted many governments across industrialized nations around the world to contribute to the positive delivery of employability skills in their educational sectors. This research book therefore argues that the role of the educational sector in employability skills development cannot be overemphasized. For this reason, an employability skill improvement framework will be developed.
Human capital has been adequately discussed across various quarters by several researchers and classical authors. The concept can be dated as far back as the 1960s when Schultz (1961) described the concept as the skills, knowledge, and abilities of employed persons found in an organizational setting. The Schultz (1961) definition was somehow limited as it did not consider the concept of ‘value’ along with the significance of investing in the resources and efforts of human capital. In 1981, Schultz revised this definition and described human capital as the entirety of human abilities (whether inherent or developed) that are crucial to an organization and can be further developed by a certain level of investment to realize organizational benefits (Schultz, 1981). About 12 years later, ‘the health of an individual’ (general well-being) was considered as a critical element to include when defining human capital (Becker, 1993). Bontis et al. (1999) provided a distinctive definition of human capital. They believe that the abilities, skills, and combined intelligence of the workforce in an organization summarize the essence of human capital in the first place. They posit that individuals who are capable of learning, adapting, and adopting innovativeness can ensure the productivity of an organization on a long-term basis (Bontis et al., 1999). This definition takes into consideration the value of creativity, motivation, innovativeness, dynamism, and adaptability as key tenets when discussing the concept of human capital. Thomas et al. (2013) provided a more recent description of the concept of human capital, which focuses on the individuals regarding their performance, output, and inherent potentials in an organizational setting. The inclusion of the term ‘potential’ indicates the possibility of individuals to further develop their skills and capabilities with the passing of time. This echoes the definition put forward by Dess and Picken (1999), who asserted that the human capital concept consists of the capacity of individuals to improve their existing knowledge, skills, abilities, and experience through continuous learning activities to improve the organizational setting. Their definition establishes ‘continuous learning’ as a critical construct when discussing human capital. Another dimension of human capital is the element of ‘individual productivity’ which both Frank and Bernanke (2007) and Acemoglu and Autor (2009) reflected in their definitions. However, Davenport (1999) and Ployhart et al. (2014) both acknowledged the element of ‘job performance’ in their respective definitions. Table 2.1 presents a literature list of some previous research works that offered various definitions of the human capital concept.
Table 2.1 Summary of previous research works inhuman capital
No. Author(s) and year Title of research Definitions Variables measured

1 Schultz (1961) Education and economic growth Defined as the acquisition of abilities, skills, and knowledge from activities of higher education (training and learning) Training for the future
2 Mincer (1962) On-the-job training: costs, returns, and some implications Described as the required educational process and activities that are instituted by higher education to effectively prepare individuals to handle future organizational responsibilities Quality workforce for the future
3 Denison(1962) Sources of economic growth in the United States and the alternatives before us Defined as intentional educational activities to effectively prepare individuals to handle future organizational responsibilities Improved workforce
4 Becker(1964) A theoretical and empirical analysis with special reference to education Described human capital as an individual’s effort in acquiring education Individual’s investment in education
5 Bowman (1969) Economics of Education Described human capital as an individual’s effort in acquiring education. It also considered several factors that can affect education such as health, social services, etc. Investment in education
6 Blaug(1976) The empirical status of human cap ital theory Described as the intentional efforts of individuals to acquire holistic education to improve the future Training for the future
7 Cohn (1980) The economics of education Described human capital as a function of improved education and training that can result in better output from individuals as well as higher wages Increased productivity
8 Romer (1986) Increasing returns and long-run growth Defined as an approach for knowledge creation through improved education to improve organizational output Improved profit
9 Psacharopoulous (1985) Returns to education: a further international update and implications Described human capital as a function of improved education and training that can result in better output from individuals Increased productivity
10 Romer (1987) Growth based on increasing returns due to specialization Described the importance of knowledge in human capital discussion The increasing stock of knowledge
11 Romer (1990) Endogenous technological change Took into consideration the total stock of human capital that an organization has. As such, an economy will experience an accelerated growth rate if they possess a larger stock of human capital Faster rate of growth
12 Becker et al. (1990) Human capital, fertility, and economic growth Op ined that there is a considerable connection between family size and the choice of investing in human cap ital Faster economic growth
13 Becker(1993) Nobel lecture: The economic way of looking at behaviour Described human capital as an individual’s level of education and trainin...

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