Principal Investigator

(IR) Fátima Suleman; (Co-IR) Francesca Sgobbi


Fátima Suleman

Partner Institutions:

Universidade do Minho

funding institution

Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia

Research Group

Innovation and Labour

Bringing together Higher Education, Training, and Job Quality




Are employers active players in the process of nurturing and driving skill supply by younger university graduates? And how do they interact with Universities in shaping graduates' skills? Firms rely upon timely availability of skills to compete and grow, while workers depend on their skills to access jobs and, more importantly, high quality jobs. The purpose of this research programme (RP) is to examine employers' strategies to access the skills they need by either recruiting skilled employees from the labour market (LM) or by training their internal labour force. This choice reflects the make-or-buy alternative typical of all production factors, yet the centrality of human resources and the uncertainty surrounding the outcomes of programmes targeted at their development turn this choice into a critical driver of firm survival. Due to the crucial roles played by graduates from higher education (HE) institutions in shaping growth and innovation processes, this RP focuses on HE under- and post-graduates. When do employers prefer ready-towork over ready-to learn graduates? What individual characteristics encourage internal training? Which solutions may support university-to-work transitions and consequently reduce or avoid skill problems? The underlying assumption is that the match between skill demand and skill supply depends on the ability of HE institutions to provide students with appropriate skills but also on firms' human resource policies and practices. To account for the intertwined roles of HE institutions and employers this RP explores both anticipative and remedial strategies and pursues five specific goals:

1) identify the employability skills for younger HE graduates in national and international LMs;

2) examine firms' strategies to access and develop required skills;

3) explore employers' expectations from HE institutions;

4) explore how employers' skill policies affect job quality of younger graduates; and

5) explore the relationship between HE and firms.


This is a timely research in the context of expansion and reforms of HE in most countries, notably Portugal. The RP will have a strong empirical focus and empirical analyses will take advantage of national datasets (such as Quadros de Pessoal) and EU datasets (such as the Structure of Earnings Survey and Continuing Vocational Training Survey). Additional quantitative data on required skills will be collected from job advertisements and from an ad hoc survey involving a sample of national and foreign firms operating in Portugal. Information on HEs will be collected via documental evidence, semi-structured interviews, and focus group. Based on available data, proper quantitative and qualitative tools will be used to answer the outlined research questions. This proposal takes advantage of previous experience in skill needs planning, lecturing, and researching by the principal investigator and of past fruitful collaboration among team members.

Outputs & resources

Suleman, F. & Costa, A.L. (2018) The employability skills of graduates and employers’ options in Portugal: An explorative study of anticipative and remedial strategies. Education + Training, 60(9): 1097-1111.

Marques, P.& Hörisch, F. (2019) Promoting workplace-based training to fight youth unemployment in three EU countries: Different strategies, different results? International Journal of Social Welfare, 28(4): 380-393.

Sgobbi F. (2019). I corsi di recupero per le matricole universitarie: quanto sono efficaci?, La Termotecnica, LXXIII(6), pp. 40-46.

Suleman, F. & Figueiredo, M.C. (2019) Entering the labour market in the context of higher education reform and economic recession: Young bachelor and master graduates in Portugal, Journal of Youth Studies,

Sgobbi F. (2019). La polarizzazione del lavoro nell’era digitale: un’analisi empirica del caso italiano”, in Alessi C., Barbera M., Guaglianone L. (Eds.), Impresa, lavoro e non lavoro nell'economia digitale, Bari, Cacucci Editore, ISBN 978-88-99068-51-6.

Marques, P. (2019). Perda de qualidade do emprego só foi parcialmente recuperada’, In: Mamede, R.P. e Adão e Silva, P. (eds) O Estado da Nação e as Políticas Públicas 2019: Menos Reformas, Melhores Políticas, pp. 50-56. Capítulo elaborado para o relatório anual do IPPS-IUL (Instituto para as Políticas Públicas e Sociais).


D'C-IUL Team:

Fatima Suleman, Francesca Sgobbi, Abdul Kadir Suleman, Paulo Marques, Pedro Videira, Filipa Cunha

External Team:

Maria da Conceição Torres Figueiredo, Emília Rodrigues Araújo



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