Survey on graduating english students’ level of readiness to participate in the job market

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MINISTRY OF EDUCATION & TRAINING CAN THO UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF SOCIAL SCIENCES AND HUMANITIES GRADUATION THESIS ENGLISH TRANSLATION AND INTERPRETING SURVEY ON GRADUATING ENGLISH STUDENTS’ LEVEL OF READINESS TO PARTICIPATE IN THE JOB MARKET SUPERVISOR TRƯƠNG THỊ NGỌC ĐIỆP Cantho, May 2013 STUDENT MAI BÁ ANH TRIẾT CODE: 7096546 CLASS: NN09Z8A1 STATEMENT OF ORIGINALITY I certify that this work has not been submitted in the whole or in part to the university or to any other educational institutions for marking and assessment either previously or concurrently. I also declare that the intellectual content of this thesis is the product of my own work, except to the extent that assistance from others in the project's design and conception or in style, presentation and linguistic expression is acknowledged. Mai Bá Anh Triết May, 2013 i ACKNOWLEDGEMENT This study has been completed with the help and support of many people. Therefore, I am thankful to all of them. First and foremost, I would like to express my special thanks to my supervisor, Mrs. Truong Thi Ngoc Diep who gave me a chance to conduct this thesis as part of the school level scientific research “Khảo sát mức độ chuẩn bị tham gia thị trường lao động của sinh viên: Góc nhìn của sinh viên năm cuối trường Đại học Cần Thơ”. Mrs. Diep has devoted a lot of her valuable time and energy to correct my thesis. Without her dedicated support and patience to me, I would have had difficulties in completing the thesis. Next, I would like to send my deep gratitude to Mr. Chau Thien Hiep, who instructed data analysis with Statistic Package for Social Sciences Software to me, and gave me valuable suggestions on my thesis. I also would like to express my appreciation to Mr. Nguyen Hai Quan, and Ms. Luu Bich Ngoc for their valuable comments on how to write an academic research study. Working with them, I have learnt precious experiences in conducting research. Then, I would like to show my appreciation to my friends, who helped me to collect and input data. Finally, my thanks are to all participants of thesis. Without their assistance, my study could not have been finished. ii TABLE OF CONTENTS STATEMENT OF ORIGINALITY ....................................................................i ACKNOWLEDGEMENT ..................................................................................ii TABLE OF CONTENTS ...................................................................................iii LIST OF CHARTS AND FIGURES ..................................................................v TÓM LƯỢC .......................................................................................................vi ABSTRACT.......................................................................................................vii CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION .......................................................................1 1.1 Rationale....................................................................................................1 1.2 Research objectives and significance..........................................................4 1.3 Thesis organization ....................................................................................4 CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW ...........................................................6 2.1 Graduating students and the job market .....................................................6 2.2 The three goals of college education and their importance..........................7 2.2.1 Knowledge......................................................................................7 2.2.2 Soft skills ........................................................................................8 2.2.3 Personal values..............................................................................14 2.3 Studies on students’ readiness to participate in the job market..................18 2.4 Research questions ...................................................................................21 2.5 Hypotheses............................................................................................... 21 CHAPTER 3: RESEARCH METHODOLOGY .............................................22 3.1 Research design .......................................................................................22 3.2 Participants .............................................................................................. 22 3.3 Materials ..................................................................................................23 3.4 Data collection .........................................................................................25 3.5 Data analysis ............................................................................................ 25 CHAPTER 4: RESULTS, DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION ....................26 4.1. Research results.......................................................................................26 4.1.1 Responses to the closed-ended questions.......................................26 4.1.2 Responses to the open-ended questions .........................................31 iii 4.2. Research discussion.................................................................................33 4.3. Conclusion .............................................................................................. 36 CHAPTER 5: LIMITATIONS AND RECOMMENDATION........................37 5.1 Limitations............................................................................................... 37 5.2 Recommendation .....................................................................................37 5.3 Directions for further research..................................................................38 REFERENCES ..................................................................................................39 APPENDICES ...................................................................................................43 APPENDIX A ............................................................................................... 43 APPENDIX B ............................................................................................... 47 APPENDIX C ............................................................................................... 51 iv LIST OF CHARTS AND TABLES Chart 1: Three groups of participants..................................................................23 Table 1: Essential soft skills for students ................................................................9 Table 2: Overall mean comparison of 3 aspects Knowledge, Skills and Values..... 26 Table 3: Overall mean comparison of specific skills ............................................. 27 Table 4: Mean comparison between male and female students’ perceptions regarding their knowledge, skills, and values......................................... 27 Table 5: Mean comparison between male and female students’ perceptions regarding their specific skills ................................................................. 28 Table 6: Mean comparison according to majors English Translation and Interpreting (ETI), English Studies (ES) and English Education (EE) their knowledge, skills, and values .................................................................. 29 Table 7: Mean comparison according to majors English Translation and Interpreting (ETI), English Studies (ES) and English Education (EE) their specific skills........................................................................................... 30 Table 8: Students’ likes, dislikes and suggestions ................................................. 31 v TÓM LƯỢC Nghiên cứu này nhằm khảo sát mức độ chuẩn bị tham gia thị trường lao động qua góc nhìn của sinh viên sắp tốt nghiệp chuyên ngành tiếng Anh tại trường Đại học Cần Thơ. Nghiên cứu đã sử dụng chủ yếu dữ liệu định lượng thu thập từ bảng câu hỏi đóng và mở. 90 sinh viên thuộc 3 chuyên ngành Biên Phiên Dịch tiếng Anh, Ngôn Ngữ Anh và Sư Phạm tiếng Anh tham gia nghiên cứu. Phần mềm thống kê xã hội học SPSS được dùng để phân tích dữ liệu. Kết quả nghiên cứu cho thấy sinh viên đã có sự chuẩn bị để tham gia vào thị trường lao động nhưng mức độ chuẩn bị vẫn chưa phải lài tốt nhất, cần phải được hỗ trợ rèn luyện thêm. Cụ thể, sinh viên Biên Phiên Dịch tự tin hơn các sinh viên của 2 ngành còn lại, đặc biệt ở kỹ năng xin việc. Hi vọng kết quả nghiên cứu này sẽ giúp nhà trường và giáo viên hiểu rõ hơn cảm nhận của sinh viên về mức độ sẵn sàng tham gia thị trường lao động. Nghiên cứu này còn đưa ra một số đề nghị điều chỉnh chương trình đào tạo, nhằm tăng cường khả năng áp dụng vào thực tế những kiến thức và kỹ năng học được. vi ABSTRACT This study aims to investigate the level of preparation for the labor market from the perspective of graduating English students at Can Tho University. This study used both quantitative and qualitative data from a questionnaire consisting of 51 Likert-scale items and 4 open-ended items. Ninety participants from three English majors (English Translation and Interpreting, English Studies and English Education) were recruited. Frequencies, T-Tests, and ANOVA’s were used to analyze the data. In general, results showed that the students were not very wellprepared for the job market. However, English Translation and Interpreting students were the most confident among the three groups, especially in their jobseeking skills. The research results should give insights into students' perceptions on their readiness for the job market. This survey suggests an adjustment to the training program so as to be more practical, in its application of knowledge and skills in the current situation. vii CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION This chapter describes (1) the rationale of the current study, (2) research objectives and significance, and (3) thesis organization. 1.1 Rationale All the activities of an institution of higher education are geared to one main objective: to train and provide the high-quality workforce for society (Higdon, 2004; Strause, K et al, 2006; Woodruff, 2012). Hence, students need to equip themselves with adequate knowledge, skills and ethics to go to work in the most efficient and professional way. The work of assessing the readiness of university graduates to join the market is an topic that has been widely discussed around the world from many different perspectives and levels (Atfield & Purcell, 2012; Cavanagh et al, 2006; Quan, Tran, & Pham, 2011). Cavanagh et al (2006) researched the level of preparedness to participate in the labor force of college and university students through the evaluation of employers from 500 large companies in the United States. The authors confirmed that the higher education institution took the major responsibility for equipping students with the necessary knowledge and skills. However, the result of the research showed that the university had just equipped students with average range of knowledge and skills to apply in the work place. These institutions had not given a timely response to the requirements of the employers given the current growth of society. Another research report from the perspective of managing directors by Dennis (2011) showed that the school needed to improve training the appropriate skills for students to be able to meet the requirements of the workplace. Only 17% of the directors said that young people in the United States had fully prepared to participate in the competitive world. Similarly, the report of an educational 1 evaluation agency in California (Sommerville, 2012) showed that the state's community colleges did not meet the requirements of basic skills for students to be successful at work. From the students’ perspective, those who joined the research by Gardner (2000) said that may be they were not ready to find a good job with high salary because sixty percent of them admitted not having appropriate learning methods. College graduates could not find a job immediately or got fired soon due to their lack of communication skills and teamwork skills. Vocational consultants commented that Vietnamese students’ soft skills were very weak (Lao Dong, 2008). Many of them lacked presentation skills. "This is the weakest skill of students nowadays. They do not know how to present the ideas coherently and clearly to other people, especially in front of a crowd or employers” (Lao Dong, 2008). According to this article, soft skills of young people just met about 10% of work demands. Therefore, university education should pay more attention to skills, and these skills should be included in some courses. In the workshop “Solutions to improving the quality of human resources training at university", many employers agreed that 94% of the students, after graduation, need to be retrained in the workplace (Thanh Nien Online, 2011). The training content is not only professional knowledge but also the work attitude, work ethics, work discipline and basic skills in addressing and solving practical problems of working. The reasons why students could not find a job immediately or got fired very soon were due to their lack of abilities, no clear orientation, or lack of soft skills to work effectively. However, up to now no research report about students’ opinion on this issue in CTU has been found. The results of the survey “Career trend of students in English Department, School of Education, CTU” (Trương & Hồ, 2003) revealed that the job hunting of 2 college graduates mainly depended on the knowledge and skills preparation. Sixty-seven percent of the students took a long time to get a job. Most of them had to attend more classes in computer science, professional training courses, and foreign languages especially English. Another study about college graduates of School of Education at Can Tho University (CTU) showed that students were very confused with group work and self study skills. They lacked critical thinking and always depended on their teachers. Moreover, “being passive, inflexible in solving problems” was the idea remark of some employers to the students (Nguyen et al, 2009). Therefore, forming study habits, good thinking and life skills in students are really urgent needs that every educator has to care about. CanTho University is a main institution of undergraduate and post-graduate training, with the mission of providing the professional human resources for the socio-economic development of the areas and the whole country. To meet the social need annually, the English Department of the School of Social Sciences and Humanities and the School of Education train hundreds of students. They are all going to join the workforce with enthusiasm. However, some queries have been raised. For example, are the seniors ready to join the labor force? Are they wellprepared for employment? Do they need any support? Yet the appropriate answers for these question have not been found in any research. Consequently, the career preparation of seniors studying at CTU has aroused my interest. From my own experience, as a senior of the School of Social Sciences and Humanities, CTU, I have noticed the great influence of knowledge, soft skills, and values on my parttime job. Based on the theoretical background on the impact of these factors on the employment opportunities and the real demands of the job market, the current study is conducted to investigate the readiness to join the workforce of English majored seniors of the School of Education and the School of Social Sciences and Humanities at CTU. While most of the studies to date have focused on the assessment of students’ job preparation by the employers,the present study looks at the students’ perceptions about what they need to prepare for job in the future. 3 1.2 Research objectives and significance This study aims to investigate the level of preparation of final-year students majoring in English at the School of Education and the School of Social Sciences and Humanities at CTU in three aspects: knowledge, skills and personal values. Students are also expected to have a review on their learning process and evaluate their development at CTU when they respond to the survey. Thereby, they can recognize their strengths and weaknesses in preparing themselves to be successful in the future work. Based on the research findings, I would like to offer some solutions and recommendations to school to prepare the students for meeting the demands of the labor market. 1.3 Thesis organization The thesis consists of five chapters: (1) Introduction, (2) Literature Review, (3) Research Methodology, (4) Results, Discussion, and Conclusion, (5) Limitations, and Recommendations. Chapter One presents the problems of the university graduates in the job market related to their preparation to work in the context of the world and Vietnam. The background information and reasons to conduct the thesis are also mentioned. Then, research questions, research objectives and significance are introduced. The organization of the thesis is included in the last part of the chapter. Chapter Two - Literature Review provides definition of terms used in the thesis and reviews the previous related studies. Chapter Three concentrates on research methodology. It describes the research designs, participants, and research procedure used in this thesis. A detailed description of the instruments and data collection is also presented. 4 Chapter Four shows the results of the questionnaire responses analyzed by SPSS. The chapter summarizes the main results of the thesis and gives a deep discussion about the results in comparison with the results of previous studies. It also emphasizes the soft skills and values which need to be paid attention to. In Chapter Five, the limitations of the study and certain recommendations for further research are finally included. 5 CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW This chapter reviews the previous projects investigating the topic of graduating students’ readiness for the job market in terms of the three aspects: knowledge, skills and values. It includes (1) an overview of graduating students and the job competition, (2) the three aspects: knowledge, skills and personal values, (3) studies on students’ readiness to participate in the job market (4) research questions, and (5) hypothesis of the thesis. 2.1 Graduating students and the job market The transition from university to the job market can be a period either stressful or exciting, to which some students can make better adjustments than others. Fulltime work can be a shocking experience to those familiar with a leisurely lecture timetable. Working in an office or any organization for eight hours a day takes some time to get used to. However, the first barrier for new graduates to cross is finding a job. Towards the end of academic life, seniors start to think about job hunting. Some students are hired before finishing their degree and have to juggle time between work and studying. Other students may opt to take a break upon degree completion and may spend this time traveling before deciding on their career. Another group may complete their degree and start looking for a job right away. In reality, many university graduates do not walk into their dream job, but instead have to start from the bottom, working their way up the ladder in a company or several companies, and often starting with a low salary. According to the article “Employment of graduates and the demand of the job market in HCMC 2012-2015” by Tran (2012), approximately 80% of graduates were employed and the remaining (20%) could not find a job. The survey also revealed that only about 50% students who got jobs lived with suitable jobs and had opportunities to 6 develop their career, and the other 50% worked in non-professional field with low income and lack of stability. 2.2 The three goals of college education and their importance To develop a course in a higher education institution, setting goals is the first and most important step (Bloom et al, 1994). The researchers claim that once goals are stated, school can connect the curriculum, instruction, and assessment to them. Assessment with course goals can be aligned by grouping them into three broad categories: knowledge-based goals, skills-based goals, and affective goals, among which affective goals include values, attitudes, and interests. 2.2.1 Knowledge In Oxford dictionary (the 8th edition, 2013), knowledge is defined as the information, understanding and skills that students gain through education or experience. In Chapter Five “Think and Grow Rich”, Napoleon Hill (1938) divided knowledge into two categories: general knowledge and specialized knowledge. (1) General knowledge General knowledge or common knowledge is knowledge of facts about a lot of different subjects (Oxford dictionary). It is general information in certain areas such as diplomacy, management, teaching, love, marriage, and so on. Every field has its certain knowledge and can be learned from many sources such as from school, book, television or the Internet. General knowledge is not only the fundamental knowledge but also the important base of life and career. (2) Specialized knowledge Specialized knowledge is in-depth knowledge about a particular subject. Specialized knowledge is traditionally seen as knowledge that has undergone a 7 formal rationalization and that is systematic, codified and generalized (French, 2007). French believes that professional knowledge raises the awareness about the field, and it provides a theory based on practice relevant to student’s professional fields and benefits them in increasing their understanding of their future work. If the general knowledge can be learned from many sources, even by self-learning through finding information in books, television, or the Internet, specialized knowledge can only be transferred through schools. Students, especially seniors, have spend 3 to 4 years in the college to foster their professional knowledge for the future career. Based on their in-depth specialized knowledge, students can develop appropriate skills and solve problems in their career life. For example, a teacher should possess the qualifications and professional knowledge required to ensure a successful performance in class such as general pedagogical knowledge, subject knowledge and teaching methodology (Maria, 2011). They can also use relevant scientific knowledge. 2.2.2 Soft skills In Oxford dictionary (2013), “soft skills” or “interpersonal skills” is defined as personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with others. The roles of soft skills appear in every aspect of life. They show one’s lifestyle and real life experience accumulation. The issue of soft skills has raised a special attention in many countries around the world, especially in developed countries. The book “Employability skills for the future" of the Business Council of Australia (BCA) and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) (2002) defines soft skills as the skills required for students not only to find a job but also to improve of their abilities and contribute to the development of the organization. According to the book, there are eight skills: communication, teamwork, problem-solving, initiative and enterprise, planning and organizing, self-management, learning, and technology. In the United Kingdom, the government is interested in developing strong and competitive human resources. The Qualification and Curriculum 8 Authority (2009) has also come up with a list of important skills: application of number, communication, improving one’s own learning and performance, information and communication technology, problem solving, and working with others. Following the article “What Do Employers Really Want? Top Skills and Values Employers Seek from Job-Seekers” by Hansen, R. and Hansen, K. (2008), a list of important skills have been synthesized and proposed for participants in the current study. Table 1: Essential soft skills for students Skill 1 Communication skill Definition The ability to listen, read, write, and speak effectively 2 Teamwork skill The ability to work with others in a professional manner while attempting to achieve a common goal 3 Problem-solving skill The ability to find solutions to problems using creativity, reasoning, and past experiences along with the available information and resources 4 Organizational skills The ability to design, plan, organize, and implement projects and tasks within an allotted timeframe 5 6 English communication The ability to listen, read, write, and speak skills effectively in English Job interview skills Including how to effectively write cover letter, curriculum vitae, prepare the outlook and answer interview questions. 7 8 Information searching The ability to effectively search information sources skills using a variety of information tools available. Computer Literacy Basic understanding of computer hardware and software, especially word processing, spreadsheets, and email. 9 (1) Communication skills In today's society, communication is really an important aspect of human life. The higher civilization of society students live in, the higher need of communication they have. Communication happens through many channels: interpersonal communication skills (verbal and non-verbal), listening skills, reading skills, writing skills, questioning skills, and understanding skills. Business managers with good verbal, non-verbal and written communication skills help facilitate the sharing of information among employees within a company for its commercial benefit. This research focuses on the interpersonal communication skills. Interpersonal communication is the process by which students exchange information, feelings, and meaning through verbal and non-verbal messages: it is face-to-face communication (skillsyouneed.com). The process of verbal communication is aided with clarity of speech, remaining calm and focused, being polite and etiquette. However, interpersonal communication is not just about what is actually said - the language used - but how it is said and the non-verbal messages sent through tone of voice, facial expressions, gestures and body language. Therefore, communication skills are extremely important factors to demonstrate the confidence, the dynamics of the students and also the key to success in life. (2) Teamwork skills In a report of BCA and ACCI (2002), the essential elements of teamwork identified by employers were concerned with employees’ of different age, gender, race, religion or political view; working as an individual and as a member of a team; knowing how to define a role as part of a team; applying teamwork to situations; identifying the strengths of team members; and coaching, mentoring and giving feedback. Crebet et al (2011) also defined teamwork as the mix of interactive, interpersonal, problem-solving and communication skills needed by a 10 group of students working on a common task, in complementary roles, and towards a common goal, whose outcomes are greater than those possible by any person working independently. (3) Problem-solving The Concise Oxford dictionary (1995) defines a problem as “something hard to understand or accomplish or deal with” and “a doubtful or difficult matter requiring a solution”. To solve a problem efficiently and in a timely way, we need skills to identify the problem, structure the problem, seek a solution, and make a decision. Decision making is the act of choosing between two or more courses of action by searching for more information, getting others’ recommendations, taking a vote or even tossing a coin. On skillsyouneed.com, there are six steps to make a good decision: (1) listing all possible options; (2) setting a time scale and deciding who is responsible for the decision; (3) gathering information; (4) weighing up the risks involved; (5) deciding on values, or in other words what is important; (6) weighing up the pros and cons of each course of action and (7) making the decision. (4) Organizational skills Organizational skills are essential in work or study. In the business world, organizational skills are invaluable to employers. Organizational skills include prioritization, time management and stress management skills (skillsyouneed.com) (a) Prioritization Learning to eliminate unnecessary tasks and decide which items on the todo list is the most important is a helpful organizational skill, because it forces students to tackle high-priority tasks before less important ones. They can accomplish tasks with earlier deadlines or greater effects on time and in a 11 thoughtful manner. If a person does not prioritize, he/she may do small tasks first because they take less time, but postpone big jobs until the last minute, causing him/her to do a substandard job on them (skillsyouneed.com). (b) Time management Time management is the ability to manage time using a range of skills, tools (e.g, schedule, file cabinets, paper trays and daily planners) and techniques to effectively manage tasks, projects, goals and schedules (managementskillsadvisor.com). Students will have a hard time developing their tasks or accomplishing projects as well as they would like to without efficient and effective time management skills. (c) Stress management skills In a study on stress management by Reddy (2008), stress management comes down to how students organize their thoughts and their inner life in reaction to events, circumstances and others in their outer life. Each person has his or her own way to reduce stress. By learning to organize our thoughts and reduce stress, the rest of the organizational tasks will be much more easily accomplished. To be successful, students have to know how to reduce the effect of stress in their life. (5) English communication skills In “The Globalization of English Report: Globalization Accelerates Need for Business English Communication Skills” by Pearson Company (2010), it remains clear that the “flattening” of global business increasingly mandates English competency as a crucial skill for the workplace. A growing number of global workers must communicate in English—both within and outside their company—on a regular basis. The report reveals that ninety-two per cent of global employees say English is required or important for their job, and this is true at all levels of the organization all over the world. 12
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