From education to employment

Bridging the gap: Graduates lack the technical and soft skills needed for tech roles

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Almost half (45%) of businesses offering tech roles claim that candidates applying for entry-level positions lack core technical skills, despite holding a relevant degree, and more than a quarter (26%) think they lack soft skills, according to new data.

Wiley Edge’s annual Diversity in Tech report found that 42% of businesses think candidates with the right formal qualifications are scarce, and 43% said the same for candidates from historically underrepresented groups. This perceived lack of qualified talent among business leaders may be contributing to difficult job hunts, with 54% of Gen Z professionals taking between 4 to 9 months to secure their first role.

Despite the fact that many businesses think graduates are entering the working world without core technical skills, the report found that some hiring bias towards top universities still exists when filling tech roles. Almost one in three (27%) businesses exclusively hire from top universities and 44% report that they are at least more likely to do so. Given Russell Group universities’ challenges with recruiting students from underrepresented backgrounds, businesses prioritising graduates from these universities may be missing out on recruiting diverse talent.

But some businesses place less emphasis on university education than others, with just half stating that they ‘always’ require tech role candidates to hold a bachelor’s degree. While 48% said a degree is required ‘sometimes,’ only 3% of businesses reported that they never require a degree and just 4% of businesses consider all types of higher education qualifications.

Becs Roycroft, Vice President of Global Emerging Talent and Client Operations at Wiley Edge, said of the report’s findings:

“Our research has highlighted a clear disconnect between university education and the workplace, and this is a skills gap that needs to be bridged with extra training. Many businesses think graduates are not equipped with the right skills to thrive in the workplace directly after university, yet there still seems to be a preference for top universities and degrees in general when filling tech roles.

“Strictly prioritising a pool of university graduates, or even narrower pools of top-educated graduates, means many who are not able to access university or face blockades when applying for Russell Group institutions are missing out on chances to start their tech careers. However, it is heartening that some businesses are already turning the tide and are widening their entry criteria to include alternative qualifications and other skills to improve diversity, and I hope this trend will continue over the years to come.”

A preference for bachelor’s degrees may leave fewer tech roles available to those who cannot afford or cannot consider university due to their personal circumstances, with 53% of businesses surveyed claimed the number of roles requiring a degree has increased, with only 33% claiming the opposite.

But of the businesses who have cut the number of roles that require a degree, 42% said it was to expand their talent pool, and 70% said they wanted to consider candidates with alternative credentials; 14% of businesses are also expanding qualifications in place of degree requirements specifically to increase the diversity of their applicants.

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