The concept for this study arose while observing an increasing trend of unemployment rate among fresh graduates in the sultanate on one hand, and on the other, the presence of unfilled vacancies, especially in the private sector. In spite of the Omani government’s efforts in recruiting Omani graduates, the industries are seeming to source their talents from other countries, and this brings us to the topic of the study: What do the HEIs in Oman do to enhance the employability skills of its graduates.
Higher educational institutions in Oman have been constantly trying to enhance the employability of their graduates. The gap between the skills acquired in the HEI and those required in the industry is seeming to be widening this study attempts to bridge the gap by identifying the perspective of HEIs on the employability skills of Omani graduates. The study will enlighten the HEI s to view their program contents in light of industry requirements.
Hence, it was decided to meet key representatives of all the major HEIs of Oman. The representatives were taken from Graduate Follow up Departments, Alumni Associations, on job Training Offices, Placement Centers/departments, Academicians of major HEIs from where the majority of Omanis graduate from. Mainly the ten branches of the University of Technology and Applied Sciences were chosen for study as it graduates students in Engineering, Information Technology and Business Studies streams. The branches are located in ten different regions of the Sultanate. This makes the study bring a cross-sectional view of the issue at hand and possible solutions.
The key objective of the research project are (1) to study the perception Higher Education Institution(HEI) over the employability skills of Omani fresh graduates, (2) to analyze the strategies adopted by the HEIs to enhance their students’ employability skills, (3) to analyze the expectations of graduates and employers regarding the employability of Omani fresh graduates, and (4) to study the linkage between the academic programs, course curriculum and outcomes with the Omani fresh graduate job requirements.
The methodology adopted was to collect qualitative data using structured and semi-structured interviews with the staff of Institutions’ Job placement departments/centers, Graduate Follow-up Departments, On job Training offices, Alumni association office bearers and teaching staff in higher educational institutions. The interviews focused on studying the graduates from 2019, 2020 and 2022 with different respondents on their availability at the designated locations suitable for them. Even Though there were, structured interviews the respondents were allowed to respond freely.
The interviews revealed that there is a gap between the job requirement skills in various jobs and learning outcomes and course contents offered in HEIs. Students often take up additional skill studies in external training institutions to gain employability skills.
The study found that wherever the course content and design were governed and guided by professional bodies such as ACCA, CISCO, and IEEE there the employability skills gaps were identified thin. The ACCA organization stated that they were aware of the needs of the employers and has a good idea of the learning requirements of the graduates.
HEI and their representative bodies should explore ways to ensure the perfect match between the types of academic programs being provided and what is required to address the wider macroeconomic conditions. However, an important caution should be that HEI also needs to provide learning that addressed broader social issues and needs.
HEI and employer partnership should be stimulated and strengthened with the employer having a more active role in HEI employability strategies and policies. Our research reveals that where partnerships are sustained, employers can have a significant effect on employability approaches particularly when they are participating in course design.
Employers’ participation in HEI committees and council should not be superfluous but they should be permitted to facilitate meaningful inputs. Our study found that employers’ impact was limited because their contributions are not fully absorbed.