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Opportunities and constraints for career development of non-STEM graduates: A mixed method approach

This project is supported by a grant of the Romanian National Authority for Scientific Research and Innovation, CNCS – UEFISCDI, project number PN-III-P4-PCE-2021-0366. Contract number: 27/05/20022.

Period: 2022-2024

General presentationTeamResearch outcomesReportsContact

In the current knowledge economy, the career paths of graduates from Social Sciences and Humanities (non-STEM) are insufficiently understood. In recent decades, Romania became a popular nearshoring location, due to its large youth population, low labour costs, language capabilities and digital skills. However, at different moments in time, companies conceptualize ‘career development’ differently, have different career paths accessible to the new entrants and promote different narratives of success. The project is informed by Ken Roberts’ opportunity structure theory. Based on a mixed method design, the research maps retrospectively, the ‘opportunity structures’ enabling career advancement and the meanings attached to it by different actors from the business service sector. The goal is to refine our understanding of processes shaping the ‘employability’ of graduates in Romania.


  • To map the structures of opportunity and constrain shaping non-STEM graduates’ opportunities of career development since the 90s.
  • To explore the meaning(s) of career development (re)produced among multiple stakeholders, including graduates, recruitment personnel, business leaders and policy makers.

Prof. MARIA-CARMEN PANTEA -project director

Maria-Carmen Pantea is Professor at the Social Work Department, BBU. Her research interests are in the area of Youth Studies, in particular young people’s relationship with work in its various forms: university-to-work transitions, vocational education and training, overqualification, entrepreneurship, volunteering. She is member of the Advisory Group of the Pool of European Youth Researchers of the EU-Council of Europe Youth Partnership. Maria-Carmen is member of the European Commission expert group on quality investment in education and training and an editorial board member of Journal of Youth Studies. In 2020-2021 she was one of two researchers contracted to support the EU Youth Dialogue as part of the German and the Portuguese EU Council Presidencies. She is the author of ‘Precarity and Vocational Education and Training. Craftsmanship and Employability in Romania. London’, Palgrave (2019). PhD in Sociology (BBU), MA with Merit in Gender Studies (Central European University) and MSc in Evidence-Based Social Interventions (Oxford).

Curriculum vitae

Prof. DAN CRISTIAN DABIJA – senior researcher

Dan Cristian Dabija is a Full Professor at the Department of Marketing and PhD Supervisor in Marketing at the PhD School in Business and Economics of the Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Babeș-Bolyai University, Romania. He completed his PhD Studies at the Bucharest University of Economic Studies and has been awarded several doctoral and postdoctoral research scholarships at Romanian, German, Hungarian, Polish, British and Finish universities. Dr. Dabija led two research projects funded by UEFISCDI. He published more than 100 papers in areas related to business and economics. Dr. Dabija serves as an associate or guest editor for important journals, as well as for Romanian and European research projects. He is specialised in quantitative data analysis, sales and marketing. Dr. Dabija is the co-author of To conceive, to write and to publish a scientific article in business and economics (in Romanian) which was awarded the first book prize of the Romanian Association of Economic Faculties and the “Victor Slăvescu“ Prize of the Romanian Academy of Science.

Curriculum vitae

KEN ROBERTS, Emeritus Professor at the University of Liverpool- in an advisory role

Ken Roberts is Emeritus Professor of Sociology and Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Liverpool. He has a long track record in youth research. From 1989 until 2010 he coordinated a series of projects among youth in transforming post-communist countries. His subsequent research was as member of a European Union Consortium investigating the roles of youth during and since the Arab Spring of 2011. His most recent publications have been on how the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns have affected young people’s education to work transitions in the UK. In all these projects he has employed the concept of opportunity structures that he coined in the 1960s. His books include Surviving Post-Communism: Young People in the Former Soviet Union (2000), Youth in

Transition: Eastern Europe and in the West (2009), Class in Contemporary Britain (2011), Sociology: An Introduction (2012), The Business of Leisure (2016), and Social Theory, Sport, Leisure (2016).

Curriculum vitae

DENISA-IOANA DOBAI, PhD candidate – Sociologist

Denisa-Ioana Dobai is a second-year PhD student in Sociology at the University of Oradea. Her research explores the phenomenon of rurbanization and its influence on human resources in rural areas. Denisa also holds a Master’s and a Bachelor’s in Sociology (Human Resources field) at the Faculty of Social Humanistic Science at the University of Oradea. She published the article ‚The Impact of Technology on Human Resources’ (2022).

 Curriculum vitae

ISTVÁN PÉTER, PhD candidate – Sociologist

István Péter is a young and enthusiastic PhD student in Sociology. After a BA at Corvinus University of Budapest, he decided to move back home and to continue his education in the field of Human Resources Management, at Babes-Bolyai University of Cluj-Napoca. Now he is working on his PhD research in Sociology, with a thesis on students’ relationship with the labour market. Apart from studies, István has been involved in non-formal education projects with young people.

Curriculum vitae


Alexandra Ioana Malina Boca graduated Social Work at ‘Babes Bolyai’ University (2011). She holds an MA in Social Gerontology (2015). Alexandra has experience in several data processing roles related to labour market recruitment and education. As a person with disabilities, Alexandra is close to several non-governmental organisations from this field.

Curriculum vitae

Publications and Reports:

Pantea, M.C. (2023) Crafting professional identities at the bottom of the knowledge economy. A critical theory perspective’. Globalizations. DOI: 10.1080/14747731.2023.2297460

Pantea, M.C. (2022) ‚Precarity and the social mobility nexus for young Roma in vocational education and training’ in Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, Special issue ‚Minority mobility trajectories, and the costs of education-driven social mobility in disadvantaged minority groups’

Nemțeanu MS, Dabija DC. (2023) Negative Impact of Telework, Job Insecurity, and Work-Life Conflict on Employee Behaviour. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2023 Feb 26;20(5):4182. doi: 10.3390/ijerph20054182.

Cegarra-Navarro, J.G., Vatamanescu, E.M., Dabija, D.C., Nicolescu, L. (2023). ‘The role of knowledge and interpersonal competences in the development of civic and public engagement and entrepreneurial intention’. International Entrepreneurship and Management Journal. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11365-023-00910-0

Dabija DC, Campian, V. Stanca, L. si Tiron-Tudor, A. (2023), “Generating students’ loyalty towards the sustainable university during the later COVID-19 pandemic”, International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSHE-11-2022-0372.

Dabija DC, Câmpian V, Tiron-Tudor A, Stanca L. (2023) The path of universities to sustainability: Students perspectives during the COVID-19 pandemic. Heliyon. 9(4):14813. doi: 10.1016/j.heliyon.

Conferences, workshops and webinars:

Maria-Carmen Pantea made the presentation ‘Crafting Professional Identities in Call Centers. A Critical Theory Perspective’ at the XX ISA World Congress of Sociology. Melbourne Convention Centre. (25.06-01.07.2023)

Ken Roberts made the presentation ‘Education-to-Work Transitions in Post-2004 European Union Member States after 30-PLUS YEARS of Transformation’ at the XX ISA World Congress of Sociology. Melbourne Convention Centre. (25.06-01.07.2023).

Maria-Carmen Pantea made the presentation ‘On meaning, values and emptiness. A qualitative inquiry on young people doing call center work’ at the 41st International Labour Process Conference ‘Fair and decent work in a Global Economy?’ University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK. (14-16.04.2023)

Maria-Carmen Pantea made the presentation ‘Policy measures addressing decent work for young people: Reinforced Youth Guarantee. A preliminary review’ la International Social Policy Conference ‘Social policy responses: from old issues to new challenges’, Vilnius University. Online. (10.11.2023).

Maria-Carmen Pantea was invited as a speaker at the event ‘Making Cluj Thrive Together’, organised by Peace Action Training and Research Institute. Cluj Napoca (15.05.2023)

Dan Cristian Dabija made a presentation at the International Conference “Communication in Action: From Theory to Practice and Back”, ‘Al. Ioan Cuza’ University, Iasi. (9-11.11.2023).

Dan Cristian Dabija participated as a member of the scientific committee to the preparation of the conference ‘Competitiveness and Stability in the Knowledge-Based Economy’, Craiova University. (27-28.10.2023). He also moderated a session, together with Dr. Dora V. Szakacs (Popovici) and Dr. Gabriela Dogaru.

Denisa Ioana Dobai moderated a session at the International Students Conference – Current Issues in Students Research” – “Family-friendly workplace culture”. Oradea. (25-26.05.2023).

Denisa Ioana Dobai participated in the organization of the Research Circle for students of the Faculty of the Socio-Human Sciences of the University of Oradea, Department of Sociology and Social Work (February-March 2023).

Denisa Ioana Dobai held the presentation “Qualitative Research” at the Research Circle organized at the Faculty of Socio-Human Sciences of the University of Oradea, Department of Sociology and Social Work (23.02.2023).

Peter Istvan took part in The Complete Project Management Fundamentals Course by Udemy. (04. 2023)

Dan-Cristian Dabija participated at the SciVal Onboarding Training, organized by Webex Elsevier for ‘Babeș-Bolyai’ University and for ‘Ștefan cel Mare’ University, Suceava. (2.11.2023).

Denisa Ioana Dobai took part in the Workshop “Civic Participation in Europe”, held by Prof. Pawel Starosta from the University of Łódź, Poland, organized by the Doctoral School of Sociology of the University of Oradea (Oradea, 26.10.2023).

Denisa Ioana Dobai participated in the Online Workshop “Beyond ChatGPT: Bibliographic Documentation with Artificial Intelligence” by Prof. Dr. Sergiu Baltatescu from the University of Oradea (2.11.2023).

Peter Istvan took part at ‘Connecting the DOTS’, an academic event organized by the Association of Hungarian Doctoral Students and Young Researchers in Romania (RODOSZ), Cluj-Napoca. (10-12.11. 2023).

Maria-Carmen Pantea took part at the online seminar ‘The European Crisis and the Emergent World Order’, organized by the ESA Executive Committee. Online. (23.02.2023).

Maria-Carmen Pantea took part at the debate ‘Shaping the Future of Work: An Activist Research Agenda’, speaker Thomas A. Kochan, organized by Digital Futures at Work Research Centre. Online. (16.11.2023).

Maria-Carmen Pantea took part at the conference ‘Transformări capitaliste în România: dezvoltare inegală și decalaje sociale’, UBB, Facultatea de Sociologie si Asistenta Sociala. Online. (23 -25.03.2023)

Maria-Carmen Pantea took part at the online seminar ‘Are multinational companies good for trade unions?’, organised by ETUI. Online. (28.03.2023).

Maria-Carmen Pantea took part at the session Employability, Enterprise and Work-Based Learning. Tracking Graduate Skills Demand. Organised by the Society for Research into Higher Education. Online. (17.07.2023).

Maria-Carmen Pantea participated at the conference ‘The Future of Work and Wellbeing’ organized by the Institute for the Future of Work. Online. (25.01.2023).

Denisa Ioana Dobai took part in the 4th International Conference in Psychology, Education and Didactics, Bacau – “Aiming high: Does it really matter? Estimating the impact of socio-economic data on career aspirations and expectations among adolescents” (Online, 20-21.10.2022)

Denisa Ioana Dobai took part in the 2nd Edition of the “Digital Trends Conference: Current Trends in the Digitization of Social Relationships, Family and Leisure”, Cluj-Napoca – “Aiming high: Does it really matter? Estimating the impact of socio-economic data on career aspirations and expectations among adolescents” (Online, 13-14.10.2022).

Policy-related contributions:

Maria-Carmen Pantea was invited as a Keynote speaker at Shaping youth policy in practice. A capacity-building project for strengthening youth policy. The event was organized by the EU-Council of Europe Youth Partnership in Chisinau. Title of the presentation: ‘Current social-political context and its influence on shaping (youth) policies’. Online. (15.05.2023).

Maria-Carmen Pantea was invited as a Guest Speaker at the roundtable ‘Proficient Eyes’, Public employment services. Track-in effectiveness in supporting rural NEETs’, within a series of webinars organized by ISCTE Lisabona. Title of the presentation: Online. (23.11.2023).

Dan-Cristian Dabija took part as an expert in the Delphi survey ‚The future of European universities on the path to sustainable development’ within the project ‚Challenges in sustainable development. Theory and practice’, coordinated by the Polish Research Agency.

Maria-Carmen Pantea took part at the annual meeting of the members of the European Knowledge Center for Youth Policy and of the Pool of European Youth Researcher at the IPDJ Lisbon Youth Centre. Lisbon. (26.04-28.04 2023).

Maria-Carmen Pantea took part at the meeting of the ‘European youth work community of practice’, organized by the EU-Council of Europe Youth Partnership. Online. (10.02.2023).

We would like to express our sincere gratitude to the young graduates, Human Resource personnel, managers and experts who shared their views during interviews.

We are proud to congratulate our colleague, Dan-Cristian Dabija for entering the list of World’s Top 2% Scientists by Stanford University.

Maria-Carmen Pantea, project director: maria.pantea@ubbcluj.ro


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