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Employability of arts graduates in the “knowledge economy” : an exploration with implications for practice Chan, Irene Mun-Yee


Liberal arts graduates’ experience “delayed workplace integration and professional recognition” (Adamuti-Trache, Hawkey, Schuetze, & Glickman, 2006, p.67). This essay explores the issue of employability for liberal arts students and graduates in the context of “knowledge economy” and the increasingly contingent culture of employment. It starts by presenting the problem of liberal art graduate employability as commonly framed through a discussion of underemployment. It then explores issues of employability at the conjunction of the knowledge economy and the contingent culture. It argues that while individual students are compelled to take responsibilities for developing their employability, the notion of employability is often structurally defined. Brown’s (2003) concept of the opportunity trap in education is used to grapple with structural inequities within the labour market in connection to higher education. Impacts of employability discourse and the social and structural limitations of employability are discussed. Current school to work transitional programs in experiential learning, including cooperative education are explored with examples from the University of British Columbia. Suggestions for practice are made for key stakeholders including higher education intuitions, employers, students and graduates.

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