In this research article, Ross J. Benbow and Matthew T. Hora explore the employability narrative, a view that focuses on whether colleges and universities provide students with the skills they need to be productively employed after graduation. Using sociocultural theory to problematize this narrative and qualitative methods to fore-ground the experiences of postsecondary educators and employers, the authors investigate conceptions of essential workplace skills in biotechnology and manufacturing fields. Their results show that though work ethic, technical knowledge, and technical ability represent core competencies valued across these communities, considerable variation exists in how members of different disciplinary and occupational subgroups value and conceptualize important skills. They found that respondents' conceptions of skills were also strongly tied to geography and organizational culture, among other contextual factors. With these results in mind, the authors conclude that skills are best viewed as multifaceted and situated assemblages of knowledge, skill, and disposition—or cultural models—and urge the adoption of more nuanced views among educators, employers, and policy makers that take into account the cultural and contextual forces that shape student success in the workplace.

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