TRANSITIONING BEYOND UNDERGRADUATE HOSPITALITY EDUCATION; A DIALOGIC ANALYSIS OF FINAL YEAR HOSPITALITY STUDENTS’ NARRATIVES OF EMPLOYABILITY
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Employability has become a key consideration for graduates, and society. Increasingly the trajectory of individuals at age 18 involves the completion of an undergraduate level degree qualification. This thesis presents a sociologically grounded study into the dialogic construction of employability in final year hospitality students and recent hospitality graduates. Drawing on a nationwide sample of UK based hospitality graduates, as they transition beyond undergraduate level higher education, a new understanding of the way in which employability is narrated and individuals position themselves within the competitive context surrounding employability, has been uncovered. The study therefore evaluates the way in which employability is constructed and narrated as a result of graduates’ social and cultural capital, their experience of higher education, career focus and way in which identity is constructed. Through the utilisation of a dialogic narrative approach the social dimensions of employability have been considered within this study. As a result this research sits in contrast to the dominant conceptions of employability, whereby agency is elevated in importance, which pertain within society. The duality between structure and agency is taken into consideration by drawing on the work of Bourdieu and Giddens. Assumptions surrounding the somewhat linear trajectories into employment which are anticipated by many, are challenged and structural influences, identified through the multivoiced nature of dialogue are analysed in conjunction with the agency exhibited by individuals. Identity is also used in order to help understand employability and to frame the narrative and reflexive processes that are undertaken within the construction of graduates’ narratives of employability. Drawing on 28 interviews this study reveals how individuals narrate employability in different ways, based on their experience of higher education and intended trajectory, upon completion of their degree. The socio-cultural background of individuals is also highlighted as a mediating and influencing factor within the process of engagement with learning and development within higher education, and subsequent constructions of employability. It is argued that hospitality graduates are not effectively prepared for the transition into employment on completion of their degrees and therefore work needs to be done in order to better prepare them for employment both within and beyond the hospitality industry. The hospitality industry itself is also not doing enough in order to support the development of students and graduates in order to encourage career development within the field. This has led to a number of recommendations being made in order to better help the development of employability in hospitality graduates through undergraduate curriculum and associated work related experience.
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