Uncovering important 21st-century skills for sustainable career development of social sciences graduates: A systematic review

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Background Teaching 21st-century skills is widely recognized as an important task of higher education. However, an overview of which skills students need to obtain a sustainable career is missing. Using the Framework for 21st Century Learning (P21, 2019a) and the model of sustainable careers (de Vos et al., 2020), we aimed to take stock of current knowledge on which 21st-century skills are considered important for social sciences students’ sustainable career development and how these skills contribute to their career sustainability. Methods For this systematic review, we searched EconLit, ERIC, International Bibliography of the Social Sciences (IBSS), PsycINFO, Scopus, Sociological Abstracts, and Web of Science on May 28, 2021. We selected peer-reviewed empirical articles that were published between 2003 and 2019 and addressed graduates' and employers' perspectives on the skills needed for social sciences graduates’ career sustainability. Twelve articles met all our selection criteria and were included for a thematic analysis after quality appraisal. Results The included articles operationalized the career sustainability of social sciences graduates mostly in terms of finding a job and maintaining employment, to a lesser extent as high job performance, job satisfaction, and work engagement. Communication and problem solving skills were most frequently reported by both social sciences graduates and employers as crucial for a sustainable career. In addition, critical thinking, initiative and self-direction, and social and cross-cultural skills were also reported as important skills. None of the studies investigated mechanisms that would explain how these skills would exactly contribute to social science graduates’ career sustainability. Discussion The results of this review showed that studies to date have addressed only a limited number of career sustainability indicators. Moreover, explanatory mechanisms have largely been ignored. This is an important gap in the literature that future studies would need to address by building on the existing sustainable career development models.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100528
JournalEducational Research Review
Early online date2023
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the postgraduate scholarship programme of the Ministry of National Education, Republic of Türkiye awarded to A. Karaca-Atik.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors


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