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Graduate Skills Fail to Meet Expectations


Almost half of recruiters believe current vacancies will be left unfilled due to a shortage of capable graduates with appropriate skills.

According to the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR), 46% of the 222 organisations quizzed believe universities place too much emphasis on academic achievements at the expense of “softer skills”.

Carl Gilleard, AGR chief executive, commented: “Employers are likely to be looking to graduates who can demonstrate softer skills such as team-working, cultural awareness, leadership and communication skills, as well as academic achievement.”

Vacancies available to graduates are predicted to increase by 15% in 2006, a 10% growth increase on 2005. Higher Education Minister Bill Rammell said the government are working towards equipping university leavers for these roles.

“We have placed much emphasis on the growth of foundation degrees, because they are vocational higher education qualifications designed with employers.”

6 Responses

  1. Or are companys failing to provide oppertunities for Graduates t
    Consider the graduate with a strong academic portfolio entering your team and then failing to provide him or her with tactical opportunities to hone their unique largely un-spoilt soft skills. Isn’t this the same issue business leaders are blaming the higher education institutions for after all?

    Where and how then, albeit the tri-services can this generation graduate truly get to grips with tangible opportunities to lead from the front and gain valuable soft skills experience?

    The VALUE graduates have over their vocational peers is analytical ability for their accredited and broader discipline of knowledge. Business Leaders and Managers require Process knowledge to outthink their customers and competition and Graduates therefore make excellent Process Pioneers.

    Process Pioneers build knowledge, and through communication with peers and managers develop internal soft skills enhancing their currency for navigation through the sources of discovery (innovation), organisational practice, and
    Human resources, (Soft Skills).

  2. Support for graduates lacking practical and vocational skills
    We at BTCV Scotland encounter this problem regularly. That is why we provide development opportunities for anyone needing to gain practical vocational skills to enable them to secure employment within the conservation/environment sector. Our “Volunteer Officers” assist our Project Officers with the day-to-day management of projects and volunteers whilst benefiting from hands on experience and our renowned training courses – all free of charge!

  3. A personal viewpoint
    One of the best pieces of advice I ever had when working in the advertising industry, was to employ on attitude rather than qualification.

    This was something I acted on, having experienced a situation where we employed graduates exclusively for certain roles.

    Ultimately, what we found was that some graduates had the right attitude and were keen to ‘get their hands dirty’ and learn. Others felt that many day to day tasks were somewhat beneath them and had a rather different attitude to their work and development within the company.

    We also had very capable people who we employed for the same kind of roles, who were exceptional and did not have the same level of academic qualification.

    The moral of the story, therefore, for me, is that I’d agree that, whilst academic achievements are undoubtedly to be congratulated, they are not always indicative of the practical abilities of the candidate.

    Perhaps some training in ‘softer’ skills for graduates would be beneficial but most of all, some realistic management of expectations for undergraduates in terms oif wat they can expect to experience in their first roles, would also help avoid disappointment on both sides of the employer/employee relationship.

    Certainly, once I adopted the ’employ on attitude and the skills will follow’ rule, we had much better results from our entire recruitment programme.

    Hope this helps give a perspective.

    Annie Lawler, breathing space therapies ltd.

  4. Skills and Academia
    I am a recent graduate and have just joined The National Graduate Development Programme for Local Government in England. The recruitment process for this was lengthy and extremely challenging and there was a huge focus on the skills and attributes required to cut a professional figure in the workplace. I think the problem today can be attributed to three things: the substance and types of courses available, student funding issues and volunteering opportunities. Many courses offered by colleges and Universities are so academically focused that they allow very little oportunity to practice soft skills such as presentation skills etc. Student funding has slipped backward with the advent of Blair’s Higher Education Act which with the introduction of variable top-up fees will force more students to work part-time and have less time for their studies. This directly links to additional time for volunteering opportunities. Through NUS, CHESS, SVS & SVE, there are many volunteering opportunities available nationally, as well as each institution’s Students’ Union which will have a range of things available to enable students to leave with more than just a degree. My own Student Union (Strathclyde) was one of the most advanced in terms of Membership Services and I am fully convinced that my involvement with the various voluntary opportunities provided there (training team, welfare volunteering, student newspaper, elections to the executive) were a key stepping stone to the career path I am on today. The perpective shouldn’t be that graduates fail to meet expectations, it is rather that employers expectations are higher as more people are going through the education system, and that institutions aren’t doing enough to instil the mindset in students that a degree alone is no longer enough to secure a career. Student Unions’ have been doing this for years but sadly most students see the Union as a bar, a nightclub and very little else. A more proactive and joined up approach between the institutions Careers Service, Student Unions’ and the backing of senior figures in the institution itself could ensure a greater push on soft skills which would enable more students to meet the employers expectations.

  5. Give us a chance!
    As a final year degree student myself, I feel companies have a responsibility for applicants not having/limited soft skills.

    Some students are unable to demonstrate they do have these skills, as they are not selceted during shortlisting as they have limited work experience.

    Many companies when advertising gradute posts require either one or two years experience in industry, for a student who has been in eduction since A-Levels, this is exceptionaly difficult, especially if they have not had a part time job.

    From my own personal experience I was fortunate enough to have a years industrial placement during my course, therefore feel I have significantly developed my skills. However, seeking employment is still proving difficult. Some companies require 2 years industry specific experience or relevant quals such as CIPD, CITP etc….Please, give us a break we’ve only just completed our degree!!

    Therefore, I conclude that, yes, some gradutes are probably failing to meet expectations beacuse they are not given a chance in the first place.

  6. Give them a chance
    I very much agree with Stephanie’s comments. How does a young graduate who was fortunate not to have to compromise their studies by having to take a part time job to make ends meet ever to gain work experience if no employer is willing to give them a chance?

    There are other equally important attributes that young graduates can offer – energy and eagerness to learn which are equally important in the workplace.

    Come on employers give those with no work experience an opportunity to prove themselves.


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