Study reveals the skills graduates need to succeed in an increasingly automated workforce.

With automation increasingly impacting the UK workforce, a new study has revealed the top skills graduates need to future-proof themselves, with relationship building, having a positive and professional attitude and communication skills being the most commonly desired by employers.

The research, conducted by sales recruitment specialist Pareto Law, reviewed 20,000 keywords in entry level job postings across 15 industries and analysed a broad range of soft skills, which are less likely to be subject to automation. The resulting list included problem-solving, flexibility and attention to detail as key areas that graduates should focus their skillsets.

Pareto Law’s analysis builds on the report from the McKinsey Global Institute which suggests that soft skills are becoming more crucial, with AI set to cause mass displacement in the job market. Developments in technology could reduce the number of ‘predictable’ tasks, such as data entry, being done by humans. In addition, a 2019 report by the Office for National Statistics revealed that nearly 1.5 million jobs in England are at risk of automation.

The analysis revealed that the top 10 most desired skillsets for entry level graduates’ jobs across the UK workforce are:

  1. Relationship building (19%)
  2. Having a positive and professional attitude (17%)
  3. Communication skills (15%)
  4. Being business-minded (12%)
  5. Being organised (10%)
  6. Attention to detail (7%)
  7. Problem solver (6%)
  8. Independent (5%)
  9. Flexible (4%)
  10. Data and analysis (3%)

According to a 2017 ONS report, young people are more at risk of having their jobs automated than those aged 35-54.

Chris Unwin, CEO of LAC Conveyors and Automation, gave advice to graduates based Pareto Law’s findings: “Be flexible, ensure that you have the basic building blocks of communication with a desire to embrace change - this will be key to achieving successful progression”

Graduates entering Accounting, Banking and Finance sectors should be aware that strong communication skills are a top priority for employers. This was reiterated in the Property and Construction sectors.

Sales and Recruitment/ HR, where communication skills are key, were more likely to pursue graduates with a positive and professional attitude. Sales had almost double the mention of positive and professional attitude compared with communication.

According to PwC, manufacturing is one of the industries most likely to be impacted by automation. Pareto Law’s study found employers in Manufacturing and Engineering industries are looking for graduates who can build relationships/ be a team player and can problem solve. 

Jonathan Fitchew, CEO of Pareto Law, commented:  

 “With automation impacting the workforce in a variety of ways, from robots reducing physical labour requirements to AI taking on tasks such as data entry and financial processing, those entering the workforce need to future-proof themselves. This process starts with developing soft skills - skills that cannot be imitated by AI.

With the graduation season upon us we wanted to help graduates understand the skills they’ll be expected to have when applying for entry level roles in 2019 and beyond. While traditional ‘hard’ skills are still important, with technology impacting jobs in an unprecedented way, it’s clear that graduates need to be strengthening their soft skills to prepare for the future of work.

AI is evolving rapidly, and Pareto are at the forefront of this progression. Businesses need to know the difference between value added by automation, and value added by humans, and make sure they can derive the best results from both”

With automation continually impacting the workforce soft skills are a way for grads to future proof themselves. Pareto Law offers training courses for grads to ensure they are equipped with the necessary skills to succeed. 

Methodology: 20,000 keywords across entry level job postings were analysed for soft skills across 15 industries as outlined by the World Economic Forum. The skills were grouped into ten wider categories and ranked according to the number of times mentioned.

The categories were then ranked by the number of occasions a key word occurred in the word bank and ordered by popularity.

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