Investing in the self: structure, agency and identity in graduates' employability

Tomlinson, Michael (2010) Investing in the self: structure, agency and identity in graduates' employability. Education, Knowledge & Economy, 4, (2), 73-88. (doi:10.1080/17496896.2010.499273).


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This article presents an alternative approach to the dominant analysis of graduate employability, through a consideration of the dynamic and socially mediated interaction that graduates have with labour market. This interaction is largely constitutive of their dispositions and identities as graduates, and entails a dynamic interplay between graduates' agency and the wider structural context of the labour market. Informed by structuration theory, this perspective offers a richer, more socially nuanced account into employability than that presented by dominant policy-based approaches, namely the human capital and ‘skills’ agenda. Such approaches present a largely de-contextualised account of employability and a somewhat simplistic notion of the link between education and the labour market more generally. In this article, we argue that employability must be seen as an active social process, and that this process is mediated significantly by the way graduates position themselves, and are positioned, within a continually shifting labour market context.

Item Type: Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): doi:10.1080/17496896.2010.499273
ISSNs: 1749-6896 (print)
1749-690X (electronic)
Keywords: employability, human capital, skills, agency, identity
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
Divisions : Faculty of Social and Human Sciences > Southampton Education School
ePrint ID: 199935
Accepted Date and Publication Date:
15 December 2010Made publicly available
Date Deposited: 20 Oct 2011 16:15
Last Modified: 31 Mar 2016 13:45

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