Research Output

Matching and mismatch: understanding employer expectations of work placement applicants

  The success and sustainability of work-integrated learning (WIL) is an abiding concern for universities, as institutions seek to mainstream WIL within academic programmes. A supply of placement opportunities, and students successfully being appointed to opportunities, is fundamental to sustainability. This paper focuses on employer perspectives on WIL, looking beyond often-reported challenges of supply and demand to examine decision-making processes around placement. Data collection is undertaken via unique access to a region-wide placement project, e-Placement Scotland, which promotes paid, quality placement opportunities to computing students throughout Scotland. Analysis of operational data from the project shows patterns of student applications and appointments. Thematic analysis of semi-structured interviews with six employers in small and medium sized enterprises is used to explore their perspectives and identify the issues that affect their decision making when offering placement roles, and appointing students to those roles. Findings are reported under six key themes; ‘improvisation’, ‘business positioning’, ‘skills focus’, ‘initiative and self-management’, ‘company focus’, and ‘making the appointment’. The findings can be used to strengthen university-employer connections through providing insights into employer priorities, and how their particular contexts affect priorities, particularly with regard to small and medium sized employers.

  • Type:

    Conference Paper (unpublished)

  • Date:

    28 September 2016

  • Publication Status:


  • Library of Congress:

    LB2300 Higher Education

  • Dewey Decimal Classification:

    378 Higher education


Smith, C. & Smith, S. (2016, September). Matching and mismatch: understanding employer expectations of work placement applicants. Paper presented at ACEN, Sydney, Australia



employer, graduate, employability, placement

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