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Higher education, graduate skills and the skills of graduates : the case of graduates as residential sales estate agents

Tholen, Gerbrand and James Reilly, Susan and Warhurst, Chris and Commander, Johanna (2016) Higher education, graduate skills and the skills of graduates : the case of graduates as residential sales estate agents. British Educational Research Journal, 42 (3). 508–523. ISSN 0141-1926

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The UK labour market is subject to significant graduatisation. Yet in the context of an over-supply of graduates, little is known about the demand for and deployment of graduate skills in previously non-graduate jobs. Moreover, there is little examination of where these skills are developed, save an assumption in higher education. Using interviews and questionnaire data from a study of British residential sales estate agents, this article explores the demand, deployment and development of graduate skills in an occupation that is becoming graduatised. These data provide no evidence to support the view that the skills demanded and deployed are those solely developed within higher education. Instead what employers require is a wide array of predominantly soft skills developed in many different situs. These findings suggest that, in the case of estate agents, what matters are the ‘skills of graduates’ rather than putative ‘graduate skills’.