Roxanne Stockwell, Principal of Pearson College London

#Skills2030 - Nearly 1 in 5 graduates are seen by businesses as not workplace ready

New research from Pearson Business School into graduate and business attitudes towards the transition from university to the working world, has found that businesses feel that nearly a fifth (17%) of graduates are seen as not being ready for the workplace.

While over two-thirds (69%) of HR managers indicated graduates as somewhat ready for the workplace, only 13% stated that graduates were ready to hit the ground running. As a result of not being workplace ready, the study highlighted the crucial skills that are still missing within the graduate workforce: leadership (48%), negotiation (44%) and strategy and planning (38%).

Several graduates (18%) believe that university did not fully equip them for the world of work, with the identified missing skills closely aligning with those identified by HRs: leadership (34%), negotiation (25%) and technical skills (23%). However, HR managers stated that recently employed graduates do arrive into the workplace well equipped with teamwork skills (76%), problem solving (76%), communication skills (75%) and research skills (75%).

The survey results correspond with a joint report by the CBI and Pearson Plc, Education and learning for the modern world, which found that two fifths (40%) of employers are either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the wider character, behaviors, and attributes of school and college leavers. While one third (33%) are either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied by the amount of relevant work experience young people have.

New graduates feel under prepared

The survey also identified that many new graduates felt under prepared for engaging with graduate recruitment processes. The survey found that only 1 in 4 graduates (24%) surveyed had prepared for the job application process by undertaking a mock interview while at university. This is despite almost 100% of HR’s indicating face to face interviews are a form of assessment they undertake when recruiting. The research also found that just over a third (37%) of graduates spoke to a career advisor prior to leaving university, while only 35% had enhanced their online profile.

The research also looked at the links between studies, work experience and the career choice that graduates end up making. While studying at university, three quarters (75%) of graduates said that they had undertaken work experience, either paid or voluntary. Furthermore, over half (55%) of graduates indicated their studies as influencing their career choice, while 51% also stated that the work experience, they undertook was also an influence. However, less than half (49%) of graduates said their current work is directly linked to their studies, with 27% indicating their job as somewhat linked, and 23% not linked at all.

Businesses also view relevant work experience as vital for applicants. Over three in five (61%) of HRs said that relevant work experience was more important than the grades achieved by graduates, while 48% of HRs said that relevant work experience is very important when recruiting employees, alongside demonstrable interest in the type of work (67%) and performance in an interview (60%).

Educational institutions need to collaborate with business

These results show that employers are increasingly looking for applicants who have developed employability skills and have gained experience whilst studying for their degree. There have been great gains in recent years in integrating higher education with industry, but clearly there is still more to be done.

Educational institutions need to collaborate with business in order to ensure students develop skills such as leadership and negotiation in order to enhance the employability of today’s young workforce. The survey shows that there is an appetite for this among both students and employers.

At Pearson College London we take a bold approach to workplace skills by inviting employers into our institution to teach students the vitally needed workplace skills. Our students get live industry briefs and attend industry workshops led by some of the world’s most reputable organisations such as Unilever and IBM.


Students need the chance to gain vital workplace skills

In a competitive graduate marketplace, firms are increasingly looking for applicants who have real world experience of the workplace. Higher Education institutions need to do more to give students the chance to gain the workplace experience that is vital in today’s job market through building strong links with local businesses and leaders in the industry.

At Pearson College London our students can undertake at least one guaranteed internship, attend industry workshops, work overseas and take part in peer to peer mentoring. Our Escape Studios students also work in groups throughout their degree on industry designed projects and many of our final year students’ projects have won awards and been showcased at festivals. All of these opportunities give our students the chance to gain the vital skills employers are after and stand out in a competitive market.

Roxanne Stockwell, Principal of Pearson College London

About the survey: The findings come from a Pearson Business School survey of 1012 graduates and 531 senior HR managers from across the UK, performed by polling company Survation. All figures, unless otherwise stated are from Survation. Graduates surveyed had graduated from a UK university, within the last five years. The graduate sample size was 1012 and total HR manager sample size was 531. Responses were from across from across the UK. Fieldwork was undertaken 7-26th November 2019.

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