Enterprise and acumen: real world information skills and employability for business graduates

Judy Reading, Macquarie University 
Paul Jewell, Western Sydney University

Concurrent session 17
Wednesday 31 August 2016, 4:30pm - 4:55pm

Abstract

Academic librarians see a significant part of their role to be supporting students to develop information literacy (IL) skills.  These are generally viewed as essential graduate attributes for professional competence and lifelong learning.  However, does our notion of IL match the needs of our graduates in the real world workplace?  At Western Sydney University a new Bachelor of Business course started in 2016 which will focus on ‘enterprise’ and the contemporary Australian business environment. The Library saw this as an opportunity to improve support for the School of Business by reviewing our IL practice and further integrating IL into the curriculum, informed by research into IL in the workplace.

Our research project ‘Information Literacy and Employability…” is exploring which IL skills are of practical value to newly graduating students in the workplace and of greatest value to their employers. Inskip (2014) suggests that IL competencies do not necessarily transfer from education to the workplace or improve employability. He recommends that the ‘contextual nature of workplace information practices’ (p. 13) be recognised.  Recent studies of the transfer of IL skills into the workforce include Head (2013, 2015) in the US and Goldstein (2014) in the UK. These studies both look at IL skills from the perspective of employers and students / graduates. Their findings are valuable in mapping the specific challenges of the workplace which can inform the development of more relevant curriculum. Our research is building on their work with a focus on the Australian context in Greater Western Sydney.

The research is a joint project of the Library and the School of Business.  At the time of writing we have interviewed 10 individuals with experience of supervising recent graduates within the workplace.  We are also setting up interviews with working graduates.  We are using prepared questions in semi-structured interviews which will be recorded and transcribed and are aiming to interview 12 employers and 12 graduates.  Questions being asked include: “What activities require your employees to do research or find information in your workplace?” and “What resources or tools do employees use in your workplace to gather information?”

Preliminary findings include useful insights such as a link between access to business news sources and the development of students’ ‘business acumen’ as well as the need to support skills in synthesising and applying information to business and industry contexts.  The research has itself enabled new connections for the Library within the University (the School of Business, Alumni, Careers and others) as well as outside (commercial businesses as well as not-for-profit and community organisations).  

Paper - Now available.

Presentation - Now available.

 

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