Skills, Knowledge and Organisational Performance

Employability in Action

Employability has recently received considerable attention in the media. Both in scientific publications and in business life, the concept of employability is becoming increasingly important. Partly, this interest is aroused by new opinions concerning career development. The ‘lifetime employment’ contract with one employer is no longer relevant for a large share of the working population (Bridges, 1994) and is replaced with a more dynamic view towards careers (Hyatt, 1995). Modern careers are characterised by a high degree of flexibility and employees are seen as ‘entrepreneurs of their own career’. Employability is a key principle in these ‘new’ careers.

What is exactly meant by the employability concept is seldom clear. Adding more and more related ‘ingredients’ has made employability a somewhat fuzzy concept. This paper tries to clear up this matter to some extent by providing a clear definition of the concept in the first part. It also provides an overview of the evolution of the concept during the last decades. The current meaning of employability encompasses both individual and contextual factors, which partly depend upon the sector of industry people work in. This implies that an investigation of
employability from the viewpoint of sectors of industry is potentially very interesting. Therefore, we develop an industry employability index that relates individual employability to the need for employability and the current opportunities to effectuate employability.

The paper is organised as follows: In section 2, the employability concept is reviewed and attention is given to the ways the concept has changed meaning in the last decades. From this discussion, it will become clear that the current meaning includes personal as well as contextual factors. One of these contextual factors is the sector of industry an employee is currently working in. We develop an industry employability index in section 3. In this part of the paper, we describe the steps needed to develop such an index. In the sections that follow (4 through 7), these steps are described in more detail and empirically operationalised. Section 8 presents the final employability index for 13 sectors of industry while section 9 concludes and summarises.

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