Half of employers believe that graduates lack basic workplace skills

In a recent survey of UK employers, the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) has found that half of employers believe that graduates lack basic workplace skills.

These skills are said to be…

  • Self-awareness – understanding own behaviour and impact on others
  • Getting things done with or through other people
  • Understanding the world of work and where they fit into it

Fairly straight-forward skills we might think…but actually, how can we expect graduates to be capable in these areas if they are not skills they have confronted and developed through their previous experience (this most often being school, college – education-based experience)?

The AGR suggested that the most employable and workplace ready graduates are those that complete placement years in industry. This gives young people a good grounding in what the working world is like and they therefore tend to perform better in the workplace when they enter it as graduates.

So how can we encourage these workplace experiences nationally?

Stephen Isherwood of the AGR claims that work experience needs to play a bigger part in schools – and we couldn’t agree more. Better collaboration between businesses and schools is critical to this issue. Even a couple of weeks unpaid work experience provides invaluable insight into how the commercial world functions and how people behave within it.

Isherwood also states that Saturday jobs play a key role in nurturing young people’s workplace skills too. Working in a supermarket/restaurant/shop whilst in Sixth Form or college provides students with vital workplace skills. He goes on to say that the important thing is that the students are then able to decode these experiences and reflect upon them; what they were good at, where they need to develop and what they enjoyed about the job. It is only when these questions are explored that the experience can be used to guide future career choices.

49% of the 174 AGR members surveyed said “graduates generally do not have the skills expected of them at the point of hiring”.

Yet, employers do expect to do some level of training with graduate employees. It is important that the focus of this training targets the skills that are lacking: self-awareness, problem solving, and decision making etc. And specialist trainers are likely to be needed for this.

The current generation entering workplaces as graduates value feeling ‘able to be successful in their organisation’ (CIPD). Access to personal development opportunities is significant for them and their desires include ‘on the job’ growth, combined with excellent job opportunities within their organisation (CIPD).

Skills development remains a top priority for graduate recruits and so we need to ensure we are cultivating the skills they need, whilst we work to establish better foundations for building these skills with school and college pupils.