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Are Graduates REALLY Not Skilled Enough?


Author: Lizzi Hart Source: Undercover Recruiter

You probably saw many articles circulating, quoting a press release from the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) reporting that half of graduate employers believe graduates are not skilled enough.

Do graduate employers genuinely believe that graduates aren’t ready for work, or is this just a sensational headline? We speak to talented and bright graduates and students every single day, we were therefore curious about the claim and wanted to investigate further.

So, are graduates skilled enough to enter the jobs market?

Yes, and also no…

Steve Agace, director of Graduate Recruitment at GRB says:

“The headline here should really be: ‘Any young person won’t have all the skills they need to be good at a job’ or ‘graduates will never be the finished article.”

You go to university to get a degree, which is essentially knowledge. As a student, there is a choice to be made: spread your time thinly, pursuing extra-curricular activities in the hope to become well-rounded for the future, or dedicate your time entirely to your studies. There is therefore a trade-off between knowledge and real-life experience. If you want a graduate to get the best grade possible, isn’t it unrealistic to expect them to also have commercial awareness or negotiating skills too?

Looking at the data…

We found a breakdown of the ‘skills gap’ from the recent AGR Selection & Assessment Trends survey, which shows a clear divide in the commercial skills employers want, and the more academic skills that graduates actually have. The data presented for the latter three skills show very little gap between the employer’s expectation and the reality, as Teamwork, Inter-Personal Skills and Problem-Solving are all part and parcel of going to university and getting a degree.

On the other hand, the five ‘commercial’ skills (Managing Up, Dealing with Conflict, Negotiating/Influencing, Commercial Awareness and Business Communication) are quite clearly skills that you learn on the job. No employer should expect a graduate to come out of university with these skills unless they’ve undergone work experience, or perhaps studied a degree in Business. And even then, they’re probably not that good at influencing people or business communication, because they’re still an entry-level employee.

Now of course there are going to be those select few graduates that have it all, and land a job with a huge corporation, with an amazing salary and excellent benefits. But that’s an example of the crème de la crème, and there are a finite amount of ‘super’ graduates out there. But are you fishing in that pond? There are hundreds and thousands of graduates with other skills that could be beneficial to your company, so we encourage you to be a little more open-minded and hire on potential. If everyone you hire had 100% of the skills needed in the role, you would have a very bored workforce. Look for the employees that can “stretch” in the right direction and become the full package.

What were you like as a fresh graduate? Most of us would accept that we had very few of the ‘commercial’ skills quoted in the AGR survey when we left university, but learnt them whilst working. It’s far better to see graduates as excellent raw material with great base level knowledge that you can mould to behave in a way that suits the company and employer. The good news is a graduate is unlikely to have bad working habits which, as you know, can be very difficult to retrain.


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