Enhancing work-readiness of vocational and higher education graduates: Asia-Pacific region

Roslyn Cameron, Alan Nankervis, John Burgess, Kerry Brown, Julia Connell, Subas P Dakal

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


Challenges associated with the ‘work-readiness’ of vocational (VE) and higher
education (HE) business graduates are identified by governments, industry and
educational institutions across APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation) countries
as significant constraints on future economic development. It has often been
assumed that the work-readiness challenge is confined to Australia, but further
exploration of the issues suggests that it is prevalent in most (if not all) regional
countries. For example, researchers have suggested that China has a significant
problem in this regard – ‘many potential employers felt that there was “a significant
gap between what they seek and what Chinese graduates trained overseas (as well
as home students) possess”’ (Cooke 2010: 256). Deficiencies identified included: a
serious lack of actual work experience; limited knowledge of the European and
American legal and administrative systems; an inability to deal with the financial
aspects of mergers and acquisitions; inadequate English fluency and overall oral
skills; lack of leadership competencies, undeveloped innovative and creative
capacities; and importantly, an absence of ‘lateral thought and concept synthesis’
(Nankervis et al 2012: 124). Reportedly, Indian employers are keen to employ only
25 per cent of Indian graduates due to their perceived lack of necessary training,
language skills, and cultural awareness, applicant inexperience, undeveloped
linguistic competencies, and poor interpersonal and leadership skills (India Skills
Report 2014: Nankervis et al 2012: 135). Researchers have found evidence of
similar difficulties in countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and
In Vietnam, Hoe (2013: 54) found that two thirds of potential Vietnamese employees
lack work-ready competencies and that three quarters are currently in ‘uncertain jobs
with low income’ (Hoe 2013: 54). A 2012 World Bank survey estimated that two
thirds of foreign-owned enterprises had experienced lower productivity due to an
absence of skilled workers, whilst another study claimed that more than eighty per
cent of employees lacked work experience, or seventy per cent lacked adequate
qualifications (Montague et al 2015: 24). In addition, the Ministry of Labor in Taiwan
(with APEC funding), is attempting to address its work-readiness challenges by
promoting mutual recognition of national skill certificates and the development of
unified competence standards (Ministry of Labor, Taiwan 2015). Consequently, the
research study underpinning this paper aims to identify how to improve transitions
from education to employment through a two-stage process:
1. analysing the nature of these challenges by creating an ongoing dialogue with
VE/HE educational institutions, governments and industry in six APEC nations
(Australia, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Indonesia) and
2. proposing collaborative practical frameworks/networks to address the challenges
through revised educational strategies concerning industry and government
programs in the Asia-Pacific region.
The six country comparative study on work readiness will be the overarching
methodological approach of the research project which will be conducted over three
phases. Phase 1 will involve a scoping study of policy challenges and developments
across partner countries. Phase 2 will involve representative case studies across the
partner countries. Phase 3 will culminate in a research workshop which will be held
to analyse Phase 2 findings, and to develop, industry, national and integrated
reports, along with education strategies and policies.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication9th International Conference for Researching Work and Learning
Subtitle of host publicationConference Proceedings
Place of PublicationSingapore
PublisherInstitute for Adult Learning
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9789810983550
Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2015
Externally publishedYes
Event9th International Conference on Researching Work and Learning (RWL09), Work and Learning in the Era of Globalisation: Challenges for the 21st Century - , Singapore
Duration: 9 Dec 201511 Dec 2015


Conference9th International Conference on Researching Work and Learning (RWL09), Work and Learning in the Era of Globalisation: Challenges for the 21st Century


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