Competency Gap: How Students and Teachers Perception of Competencies Differ from Employers

Master's Thesis, 2012

49 Pages


Table of Contents

1.1 Objectives..
1.2 Significance of Study

International Competency and Skills Gap Profile for Modern Graduates (from Jackson, 2010)
2.2 Application of Competency Gap Analysis

3.1 Research Design
3.2 Sampling Technique
3.3 Research Instrument
3.4 Sampling Administration
3.5 Theoretical Framework
3.6 Hypothesis


Future Implications


This research is concerned with education employment equation in education sector. This research will be based on perception of employers, teachers and students about the competencies the graduates possess. Many employers think that employability skills should be shaped somewhere else in graduates before entering workplace, throughout the curriculum at all levels. They think that students should be prepared for workplace. It is suspected that widening the access of higher education has increased the heterogeneity of the skills of the students in the industry. Employers have indicated that students are often not prepared for the workplace and call on universities to produce work-ready graduates. Educational institutions are under pressure to generate competent students, so that they are able to respond in ever changing environment

This study aims to explore the level of competencies perceived by employers, teacher’s perception about their students and students themselves perception about their competencies and identify the gaps that need to be addressed. This research will focus where students of Comsats are standing in case of competencies according to employers, teachers and their own perception. The gaps between the ranks are evaluated. The study is conducted by applying convenience sampling method. To determine the internal consistency, Cronbach Alpha test of the individual variables is applied, the overall reliability is found to be acceptable.


“O you who believe! Fear Allah and seek an approach into him…” (Holy Quran 5:35)

The Quran defines tauheed monotheism as the acknowledgment of Allah as the only Allah. Who is free from all flaws and imperfection and to whom all gracious attributes are ascribe which are accepted by all norms of sense and reason and which have been explained by almighty himself through his prophets.

I think if any of us honestly reflects on who we are, how we got here, what we think we might do well and so forth we discover a debt to others that span written history. The work of some unknown person makes our lives easier everyday believe it’s appropriate to acknowledge all of these unknown persons; but it is necessary to acknowledge those people we know have directly shaped our lives and our work.

In this regard first of all I would like to thanks my beloved parents, who gave me as much as support that I am able to be here, and successfully doing my tasks. I also like to thanks for the kind giddiness of my respectful teacher. He always supports me and gives me right direction for my works, and also polishes my abilities. At the end I will thanks to all of them who are involved, directly or in directly in making this report.


Figure 1 Cumulative Graph of the Competencies


Table 1 Reliability Test

Table 2 Demographic profile of employers

Table 3 Demographic profile of teachers

Table 4 Demographic profile of students

Table 5 Cumulative Ranking of the Competencies

Table 6 Top five competencies ranked by three groups

Table 7 Skill descriptor s for which three agreed on the high level of competency

Table 8 Skill descriptor s for which three agreed on the low level of competency

Table 9 Negative gaps between employer and student

Table 10 Negative Gap between Student and Teacher

Table 11 Negative gaps between teacher and employers

Table 12 Skill descriptor for which student and employer rated high level of competency and teacher rated low level

Table13 Skill descriptor for which employer and teacher rated high and student rated low level

Table 14 Skill descriptor for which teacher and student rated high and employer rated low level

Table 15 Skill descriptor in which student rated high and employer and teacher rated low level

Table 16 Skill descriptor for which employer rated high and student and teacher rated low level

Table 17 Skill descriptor for which teacher rated high and employer and student rated low level


We are living in the world where there is more focus is on everyday innovation of knowledge positioning personnel as human capital, nearly immune to obsolescence (Dave Hodges and Noel Burchell, 2003). Identifying and developing competencies in such a world is important requirement of graduates and become a challenging task for educational institutions. What we really know about the employers and teachers views on graduate competencies? And how competent are the graduates when they first enter in the workplace?

Educational institutions are obligatory to generate highly mobile graduates who are able to respond in ever changing environment of workplace. Education especially higher education is in front of many challenges from skill development point of view. With too many educational institutions offering different type of educations; there is only a concern about the excellence of graduates that a university is providing to industry and also the capability of these graduates to meet the requirement of employers.

Graduate competencies are the key aspects of students’ outcome during their university career, graduate competencies are also known as graduate attributes/ capabilities/ transferrable skills/ key skills/ graduations/employment skills or other similar terms and the employability; that make individuals more likely to achieve employment and to be flourishing in their chosen occupations. University learning environment is supposed to be a place where students discover all they need and also prepare for lifelong careers competencies.

According to graduate prospects in Raybould and Sheedy (2005), nearly two thirds of vacancies are open to graduates. This shows that employers are looking for the competencies that are developed during study periods. Educational institutions will attain their purpose only when they are able to generate competent graduates but employers has indicated that students are not geared up for the workplace and call on many universities to produce employable graduates (Barrie, 2006;Kember and Leung, 2005). This is the only pressure on universities for fostering and creating lifelong, flexible, adaptable graduates, if any gap exist the graduate become less attractive to the industry.

Employers expect that graduates should be work-ready and demand variety of competencies; they have believed that graduates have lack of competencies and skills (Clark, 2008). Employability skills need to be shaped not only in one module but throughout the curriculum, but a general question arises as to how the higher education increases the competencies of the graduates. An important characteristic demanded by employers from graduates is that they are able to work confidently and effectively when they enter in work environment (National committee of Inquiry in to Higher education, 1997).

Students’ subject matter knowledge is generally sufficient (Crebert, Bates, Bell, Patrick & Cragnolini, 2004; Hind, Moss & McKellan, 2007) but by improving and developing students competencies such as interpersonal skills, teamwork, communication and problem solving skills, value will be added to their intellectual capabilities; making them more employable (Hind et al., 2007; Maher & Graves, 2007).

Universities are reshaping their curriculum and education process and enhancing competencies of their students in line (Sohail & Daud, 2006) and students are keen to select those universities which are responsive to these needs (Song-Ae, 2005). The population of university graduates is increasing day by day (Government of Pakistan 1998; Ehrenberg, 2005; Shaw, 2011) because students perceive that university education is a source of employability skills (Saunders, & Zuzel, 2010).

This study is conducted in analyzing the competency gap between professional education and employers expectations in COMSATS Institute of Information and Technology Abbottabad. This study found that graduates, employers and teachers generally consent on significance of many set of skills and also agrees on different competency gaps that students have.

1.1 Objectives

This research project tries to explore:

- Competencies demanded by the industry in graduates
- Graduate competencies gained from education
- Indentify any gaps that need to be addressed

The study will help us to analysis graduates competencies of graduates and employers expectations about their competencies. The research will be conducted to have an in depth analysis graduates gaps.

1.2 Significance of Study

The significance of the study can be explained as:

- Prepare graduates for work
- Create awareness about employers expectations
- Help universities meet the needs of industry

This study will find out the common grounds of competencies between the perception of employer’s teachers and students in which all agrees that same points, and also find out the gaps in competencies according to their perceptions that where the gap exist.


In today’s work situation subject alone is not sufficient; attributes and skills are the things that catch the attention of employers and are given major importance. How much a worker espouses according to work environment is what most employer see, how much he/ she alter himself into new system, while employers who is going to recruit fresh graduates these things matter to them. Sweeny and Twomey (1997, p. 299) noted that “Employers are looking outside at ease and focusing more on attributes and skills that will enable graduates to be adaptive, flexible and transformative”.

For a new graduate employment, strong knowledge foundation alone does not works therefore personal attributes and capabilities of the graduate are considered to have a greater influence on success in the workplace (Bell, Grebert, Partrick, Bates & Cragnolini, 2003). Employers have specified that students are often not ready for the workplace and call on universities to generate more employable graduates (Barrie, 2006; Kember & Leung, 2005) by providing transferable skills that can be taken into the workplace (Smith, Clegg, Lawrence & Todd, 2007). Transferable skills are expected by employer to possess like oral and written communication skills, team work, interpersonal skills and problem solving skills (Ms Kavitha. et al ,2011).

Today the basic parts of degrees are specialized skills, competencies skills and personal qualities. Term competency have various interpretations: Coll, Zegward & Hodges (2000) defines a competent individual as “one who has skills and an individual is deemed competent if he/she has the general skills and attributes significant to the tasks to be undertaken (Coll & Zegward, 2006).

Competencies are attributes important to task started. It can be observed as a characteristic of an individual and related to personal attributes rather than technical skills (Hidges & Burchell, 2003). The manner in which individual attributes is also termed as competency - such as knowledge, skills and attitudes, are drawn on in performing tasks in definite work frameworks and which outcomes is in overall performance of job.( Richard K. Coll* and Karsten Zegward & Dave Hodges, 2002).

“A competency is a broad combination of knowledge, skills and attitude with an assured proportion that enable a person to be successful at a number of similar tasks with” ((Ms Kavitha. et al, 2011. The personal distinctiveness of an individual that result in greater performance in a given situation is defined as competency. Competency is related to the way in which individual attributes, such as knowledge, skills and attitudes are haggard in performing tasks in specific work contexts, which result in overall job performance. (Coll & Zegwaard, 2006, p. 31)

Initially competencies might consist of writing, reading, computation, listening, questioning, cognitive, speaking, individual obligation and self-esteem, resources (time, money, people, and information), interpersonal, and information and technological (Michelle R. Ennis, 2008). The one who possess all the traits and characteristics related to a task to be accomplished is a competent individual.

Soft skills that are also called as personal skills and cognitive skills that are also known as technical skills are the two types of individual skills. Increasing educational attention has been paid to core skills, transferable skills, soft skills, basic skills, generic skills, basic skills, cross- curricular skills, or more recently employability skills in the worldwide context, (Bridges, 1993, p. 45; Hager & Holland, 2006, p. 2). Sometimes they are referred to as, ‘capacities’, or competencies ‘abilities’ rather than skills.

Competency is categorized as, novice i-e having basic theoretical knowledge but need to practice it, apprentice i-e task have been performed but in a limited scope, competent i-e having deep understand of tasks and standard of performance and expert i-e consistent performance up to given standards (Shellabear, 2004) .

International Competency and Skills Gap Profile for Modern Graduates (from Jackson, 2010)

Competency: Use of Technology

- Interactive use of technology ( Rychen, 2002)
- Selecting and using appropriate technology to complete a given task, by applying computing skills to problem solving (Casner-Lotto & Barrington, 2006)

Competency: Problem Solving

- Selection and use of appropriate methods to find out solutions (Knight & Yorke, 2004)
- Analyzing facts and circumstances and applying creative thinking to develop appropriate solutions (CBI, 2008b)

Competency: Decision Management

- Coping complexity and Choice of best options from a range of alternatives - the ability of handling ambiguous and complex situation (Knight and Yorke, 2004)
- Execute effectiveness as demonstrating decisiveness combined with sensitivity in making difficult judgment in response to complex situation (Bound & Soloman, 2001).

Competency: Ethics and Responsibility

- Ethics role as a set of basic values, including honesty and respect for diversity, which guide managerial behavior (Magill and Herden, 1998)
- To exhibit ethical and professional behavior (Bell, 2004)

Competency: Written Communication

- The ability to use language, symbols, and text very interactively (Rychen, 2002)
- Writing clearly; forming and articulating logical arguments; appropriately sequencing and presenting; comprehending in a range of layouts; idea(Field, 2001)

Competency: Information Management

- The ability to use information and Interactive knowledge (Rychen, 2002)
- Capacity to identify, access and manage knowledge and information is essential for the knowledge economy( Hager & Holland, 2006)
- Ability to access different sources (Knight & Yorke, 2004)

Competency: Oral Communication

- Speak, listens and empathises (Field, 2001)
- Clear and confidence presentation of information to a group a orally and ability to explain clearly, both orally and in written format (Knight & Yorke, 2004)
- Articulate thoughts, ideas clearly and effectively; have public speaking skills (Casner- Lotto & Barrington, 2006)

Competency: Teamwork

- The ability to work “constructively with others on a task” (Knight &Yorke, 2004)
- Build collaborative relationships with colleagues and customers; be able to work with diverse teams, negotiate and manage conflicts (CBI, 2008b)

Competency: Interpersonal Skills

- The ability to relate well to others and to help (Rychen, 2002)
- Fostering cooperation and collaboration; building and maintaining rapport; consultative style and the ability to resolve conflicts(Field, 2001)
- Social ability

Competency: Leadership Skill

- Ability to manage and motivate others (AIG, 2006b; Pedagogy for Employment Group, 2004)
- Providing vision, goals setting, accountability, motivating, driving change and supporting others and monitoring performance (Field, 2001)

Competency: Critical Thinking

- Logical and analytical reasoning (Hager and Holland,2006)
- Ability to identify assumptions and issues, identify important relationships, sort correct inferences, assess evidence or power, and realize conclusions(Tsui, 2002)
- To exercise sound reasoning and analytical reasoning( Casner-Lotto & Barrington, 2006)

Employers has the expectations that institutions should provide graduates with competencies relevant environment in which they work, they want these probabilities to be established before entering the work industry.

To enhance employability academic programs need to provide opportunities to develop competencies including the ability and readiness to learn, the use of inventiveness and individual organizational skills (Sleap and Reed (2006) and Bell et al. (2003). Educational institutions will achieve its purpose only when they are able to generate competent graduates. When gap exist between the competencies vital and obsessed, the graduate become less attractive to the industry, competencies should be an important element of education (Ms Kavitha. et al, 2011).

2.2 Application of Competency Gap Analysis

Alemu et al (2011) conducted on the competency gap in Human Resource Management in health sector where some of staff member assume dual responsibilities i-e clinical responsibilities and HR duties. They found out that although the staff members possess all the necessary specialized clinical knowledge but they seriously lack HR skills and competencies. They also found out that Hospital Management staff although possessed all technical and specialized clinical knowledge but the seriously lack the management related competencies. “Lack of staff satisfaction, lack of commitment and initiation, lack of team spirit, poor condition for working, low staffing, lack of skilled manpower, high turnover, absenteeism and conflict among staff members, limited decision making power, and lack of financial and non-financial incentives” were some of issues faced by and competencies the hotel management staff lacked of.


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Competency Gap: How Students and Teachers Perception of Competencies Differ from Employers
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Mansoor Shahab (Author), 2012, Competency Gap: How Students and Teachers Perception of Competencies Differ from Employers , Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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