1.1 Background of the Study

University education is at the centre of human resource development. Professional and highly skilled personnel such as Engineers, Administrators/Managers, Accountants, Surgeons and Para-Medics, Lawyers, Scientist, Technicians and Lecturers in various disciplines among others are trained and developed in the Universities. The world over, the fundamental mission of Universities, according to Brubacher (cited in Anho, 2011) is to promote the life of the mind through intellectual inquiry and to generate, store and transmit specialized knowledge and sophisticated expertise, higher forms of culture and ethical bases of conduct.

The World Bank (1999) justifies the usefulness of University education to a nations development and well being when it states that particularly University education, is fundamental to the construction of a knowledge economy and the society in all nations.

The Nigerian Institute of Personnel Management NIPM (2000) noted that the quality of graduates both from public and private universities in Nigeria is on a rapid decline especially in the area in respect of valuable skills including; communication, technical abilities, human interaction, social, conceptual and analytical capacity. To collaborate this, the Nigerian Employers Consultative Association NECA (2000) asserted that employers are not recruiting but adopting employment protection strategies due to the very poor quality graduates from Nigerian tertiary institutions who do not meet the demands of industry.

Given the contributions of education, especially at the tertiary level, to national development, countries, individuals, communities and corporations often invest massively in education in a bid to uplift the quality of their educational system (Akinyemi, Ofem and Ikuenomore, 2012).

As a result, the higher education sectors are under immense pressure from employers of labour to produce quality graduates that can be economically engaged at the individual, national and global level (Teichler, 2007). Such graduates should possess a combination of attributes that will enable them to take an adaptive and proactive approach to their careers (Bezuidenhout, 2011).

In response to this, the Nigerian government has taken different measures to ensure that the quality of graduates from Nigerian tertiary institutions is enhanced by strengthening external control and monitoring, thus establishing the National Universities Commission (NUC) that came up with the Maximum Academic Standards (MAS) for all undergraduate programmes. The MAS stipulates the content of the curriculum as well as the minimum entry and graduation requirements for each academic discipline.

Despite the available internal control measures in Senate and the external functions of the NUC through the use of MAS documents, and other measures, inadequacies in staff facilities and managerial quality continue to exist as most Nigerian tertiary institutions churn out graduates in a geometric progression while nothing or little is being done to address their employability in the labour market.

Dabalen et al (2000) and Ogundowole (2002) have identified possible causes of low quality of graduates in the developing countries. According to them, one of these is decline in quantity assurance which is reflected in the high rate of human capital flight.

This is therefore a key challenge to tertiary institutions in Nigeria, which produces over 300,000 graduates annually; a number that should ordinarily meet the country’s human capital resources needs (Oyesiku, 2010). But employers who are willing to pay well to attract skilled workers are increasingly finding it difficult to fill job vacancies. Akanmu (2011) opines that products of the Nigerian tertiary institutions have at different forum been challenged to test their suitability or otherwise to secure few available white collar jobs. He went further to say that the situation is not only sympathetic but embarrassing that the vast human material resources available to the country had not been trained and utilized to the advantage of the country. Thus, the undertaking of this study beamed a searchlight on the quality of Nigerian tertiary institutions graduates giving focus to the perception of employers.

1.2 Statement of Problem

For several employers, the desire to have better-skilled trained personnel able to run complicated software or operate complex machinery is a reality. In practice, demands for adequately trained graduates with the appropriate organisational skills to meet workplace challenges indicate that the availability of those graduates is extremely important to employers. Yet, employers in Nigeria have expressed concerns about the lack of adequately trained graduates with competent skills to meet workplace challenges. Several graduates seeking employment in different industries in Nigeria have been turned away by employers who found that they did not possess the appropriate qualities to perform work related tasks (Aryeetey, 2011).

Consequently, employers of labour in Nigeria often complain that graduates are poorly prepared for work. They believe that academic standards have fallen considerably over the past decade and that a university degree is no longer a guarantee of communication skills or technical competence. As a result, university graduates are commonly viewed as “half baked.”

The instructional processes in our Universities have lost their rigor as many institutions could not function well. The adduced reasons for this problem include insufficient fund, incompetent and inadequate staff to carry out quality teaching.

The importance of quality education in the public universities system cannot be overemphasized,according to the National Manpower Board (2009) the Nigeria labour market can barely absorb 10% of the over 3.8 million persons turned out by the Nigeria educational system on a yearly basis; this lay a major importance on quality assurance in making graduates from public universities in Nigeria to be competitive with their counterparts from private and overseas institutions.

In brief, the quality of Nigerian tertiary institutions graduates and unemployment trends in Nigeria indicate that, without a concerted effort to tackle the problems of graduates’ employability from tertiary institutions the situation could get worse. It is against this backdrop that this study examined the quality of Nigerian tertiary institutions graduates giving focus to the perception of employers.

1.3 Purpose of the Study

The study was conducted with the following objectives:

i. To investigate the relationship between quality of education and graduates employability in Lagos State.

ii. To explore employers’ perception of technical competence in hiring Nigerian tertiary institutions graduates.

iii. To examine the extent at which communication skills is related to graduates employability.

1.4 Research Questions

This study was guided by the following research questions:

1. What is the relationship between quality of education and graduates employability in Lagos State?

2. Is employers’ perception of technical competence a determinant for hiring Nigerian tertiary institutions graduates?

3. To what extent do communication skills affect graduates employability in Nigeria?

1.5 Research hypotheses

The following research hypotheses were tested.

H01: There is no significant relationship between quality of education and graduates employability in Lagos State.

H02: There is no significant relationship between employers’ perception of technical competence and recruitment of graduates.

H03: There is no significant relationship between communication skills and graduates employability.