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Higher Education Quarterly, 0951-5224
DOI: 10.1111/hequ.12055
Volume 68, No. 3, July 2014, pp 348–372

The Role of Work Experience in the Future Employability of
Higher Education Graduates
Ruth Helyer, Teesside University, r.helyer@tees.ac.uk
Dionne Lee, Teesside University, d.lee@tees.ac.uk

Abstract
Many new graduates are finding it difficult to obtain graduate-level work and impossible to break into the sectors they were aiming at. In order to address this, higher education institutions are examining the methods they use to enhance student employability and deploying various measures to grow and strengthen this activity, with an increasing focus on providing work experience. One popular way of doing this is via internships (placements). This paper examines the context in which work experience has come to the fore as an approach to enhancing employability by interrogating recent research and policy related to this agenda. Employability is presented as an on-going debate that cannot be viewed as a finite entity but must move and develop with the market, society and the global situation. In addition the paper closely examines a graduate internship programme in a university in North East England. Comparing and contrasting findings from this scheme, with other examples of experiential learning through work experience, provides some evidence to suggest the value of internships and furthermore supports some formative ideas about how internships might be developed to best serve those taking part in them: interns; employers and universities.

Introduction
Higher education is said to develop the whole person and an expected consequence of this is that graduates will be highly sought after as employees. However, the current situation globally is that many new graduates are underemployed and higher education institutions are…...

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