GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

Family Name:
First Name:
Title of Paper:
The Alignment of Business Education in the GCC to Industry Requirements: Perspectives of Recent Bahraini Graduates and Employers
Paper Proposal Text :
Background and Literature Review
Graduate employability and attributes needed for success in the world of work are becoming an increasing trend and focus of research. Bukamal, Buheji, Janahi and McLoughlin (2015) stated that employability skills describe generic competencies for effective participation in the workplace. The current trend is for graduates to be equipped with 21st century skills, meaning, that graduates need to have both the discipline related content knowledge as well as the relevant technical, soft skills and attitude required by employers. There is consensus among the business education community that business education requires the transfer of skills and knowledge with the purpose of “preparing students for future global business challenges” (Emiliani, 2006, p.364)
A number of local initiatives in Bahrain have stressed the importance of employability skills to be the focus of higher education. For instance, the Higher Education Council (2014) specified in the National Strategy for Higher Education (2014-2024) that a main objective is for higher education institutions to develop students’ problem solving, critical thinking, communication and networking skills in order to address the current mismatch between higher education and the labor market.
Research is starting to reexamine the characteristics organizations might be seeking in new employees to ensure the constant relevance of business education to industry. Jones et al., (2016) reported a shift of employer interests in hiring business graduates who can communicate well with others, rather than a focus on their previous academic achievement record. Their findings revealed that recruits top desired characteristics in business graduates’ are a positive attitude, team work, mental resilience, respectfulness and trustworthiness. While the least important factors were knowledge of the global business, high academic achievement, and work experience.
McMurray et al. (2015) criticized business schools for their emphasis on research rather than collaboration with industry, and that business schools could allocate their resources to increase the employability of their students and graduates through work placements and stronger partnerships with industry.
The trends for business education and skills required by industry vary across the world. In China for instance, there was a need for business education to equip graduates with the managerial talents to fill a market gap (Zhiwen, 2009). Therefore, higher education institutions in China responded to that particular industry need to ensure the relevance of their programmes.
According to a report published by the Higher Education Council (2012) the number of business programs in the Kingdom largely exceeds any other program in all the universities combined. In 2012, a total of 28 business programs were offered across the country and more than 50% of students are studying a business-related program. As for the current condition for Business graduates in Bahrain, that remains inconclusive due to the lack of data in the area. However, broadly speaking, a report published by EY (2015) revealed that only 19% of GCC employers indicated that the education system prepares students with the right attitude and behavior; and only 16% of employers said that the education system equips students with specific core skills required in their industry and that the curricula is in line with the needs of the private sector. The report also indicated an expected rise in Bahrain youth unemployment from 29% in 2014 to 31% in 2018 (EY, 2015). One of the biggest explanations for this rising figure was that employers suggested that graduates lack the necessary employability skills required by industry, it could provide a possible indication on the condition of business education graduates and the incompatibility of their skills to employers’ needs (Bukamal & Mirza, in press).
The results of the prior study were compiled for graduates from all disciplines and cannot be generalized for business graduates. Therefore, is it crucial to investigate the situation specifically for business graduates in Bahrain and to explore the demands of employers of graduate attributes, and the degree to which these attributes and skills are cultivated in students through the local higher education system.
The purpose of this study is to report on the congruity or incongruity of the perspectives of business graduates and employers, regarding the readiness of Bahraini business graduates and their employability skills as required by contemporary business. The aim is to determine the effectiveness of business education in local Higher Education Institutions (HEI) to prepare graduates as well as the relevance of graduate attributes to industry demands of skills and expertise. Exploratory insights into the business graduate experiences after their integration in the workforce, and the perspectives of industry on the employability skills of business graduates and their efficiency and value at the workplace. The study will explore reasons of possible misalignment between business school outputs (i.e graduates and their attributes) and the necessities of the business world of work.

Research Design and Methodology
The study will employ a mixed methodology design. Participants will include employed business graduates from public and private higher education institutes in Bahrain who are recently employed in the public or private sector, as well as private sector business professionals. Data will be gathered using one-on-one semi-structured interviews with qualitative and quantitative components. In the interview, participating business graduates will be asked for their perspectives and views of the effectiveness of the education they received and its applicability to real world situations. On the other hand, participating representatives from the business industry will be asked to comment on the relevance of the education and skill set of the business graduates to the demands of the field. The data will be transcribed and coded into common themes, responses from business graduates and industry representatives will be compared for analysis.
Research Questions
The study aims to answer the following research questions:
- What is the relevance of local business education to the business industry?
- What are the perspectives of industry and business professionals on the readiness of business graduates?
- What are the skill requirements of industry from business graduates and higher educational institutions?
- What are the perspectives of business graduates of the relevance of their education to the current industry situation?

Findings and Discussion
Expected findings of the study are that there is only a slight alignment between industry skills requirements and the actual skills embodied by business graduates from local higher educational institutions. The study will also include a recommended skill set by employers on the current necessities of industry from new recruits. The study will provide a set of recommendations in response to the findings for prospective business students, decision makers in educational administration, employers, business lecturers, and business education curriculum developers.

Bukamal, H., Buheji, A., Janahi, E., & McLoughlin, B. (2015, 19 Feb). Instilling Employability Skills: A Problem Based Learning Approach. Paper presented at 3rd QQA Conference “Quality Education & Training: Sustainability & Employability”. Gulf Hotel, Bahrain.
Bukamal, H. & Mirza, C. (in press). GCC Higher Education Challenges and Labor Market Mismatch: A Bahrain Case Study. Oxford Gulf Affairs.
Emiliani, M. L. (2006). Improving Management Education. Quality Assurance in Education, 14(4), 363-384.
EY (2015). How will the GCC Close the Skills Gap? Retrieved December 7, 2016 from:$FILE/GCC%20Education%20report%20FINAL%20AU3093.pdf
Fogle, C. D. (2012). Employers\' Perceptions of Business Graduates from Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Global Education Journal, (1), 11-70.
Higher Education Council (2012). Achieving Excellence Together: Kingdom of Bahrain Higher Education Universities and Institutions Annual Report 2012. Retrieved from:
Higher Education Council (2014). National Higher Education Strategy. Retrieved December 7, 2016 from:
Jones, M., Baldi, C., Phillips, C., Waiker, A. (2016). The Hard Truth about Soft Skills: What Recruiters Look for in Business Graduates? College Student Journal, 422-428.
McMurray, S., Dutton, M., McQuaid, R., & Richard, A., (2015). Employer Demands from Business Graduates. Education & Training, 58(1), 112-132. Doi: 10.1108/ET-02-2014-0017.
Zhiwen, G. (2009). Employability Enhancement of Business Graduates in China: Reacting upon Challenges of Globalization and Labour Market Demands.