There’s a significant mismatch between the skills employers demand and those that recent graduates possess. Fortunately, there’s something that your organisation can do about it.
The overeducated, underemployed graduate is nothing new. After all, while university students today continue to pursue the concentrations they’re passionate about, employers are increasingly focused on hiring young people with concrete skills – yet face an alarming dearth of them.
While 87% of recent grads report feeling prepared for full-time work, only half of hiring managers agree. And in many cases, they’re not budging, as one in four jobs remain unfilled due to technical skills gaps.
Yet, it’s not as though recruits are finding fulfilling work elsewhere: over a third of university-leavers work in low-skilled areas, and more than half have found themselves in non-graduate positions. The truth is hard to swallow: many university-leavers are simply unemployable given their skillsets, despite having worked for years and incurred an average of £44,000 in debt to acquire them.
There’s little point in putting any single party to blame – universities, the government, businesses and students all share responsibility for the skills gap. Yet for employers, tangible steps can be taken to keep this crisis in check.
Aligning Supply with Demand
As we’ve established, students are leaving university unprepared for the job market; to address this, recruiters should bring their knowledge of that market to the universities. As Alistair Cox adroitly observes, businesses should liaise with institutions of higher education in order to communicate the skills or degree paths that would best prime graduates for employment opportunities. Cox cites the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York as a prime example; their website uses data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to provide students a sober estimation of how various educational paths situate them for the workforce.
Part of the problem is that, lacking strong connections with businesses, universities are simply unable to provide the guidance necessary to steer students towards a viable career path. Indeed, many educators have spent their careers entirely within the education sector. As such, businesses should take a proactive approach, arranging for executives to hold sessions with students to offer career advice, provide industry insight and inform students about relevant job opportunities. An organisation may even be able to fund specific educational programs that, in effect, would subsidize the acquisition of needed skills, such as those in STEM and digitally-focused verticals.
Finding the Right Skills
Of course, the fact that so many graduates fail to find graduate-level work may indicate that attending university itself isn’t always the wisest option. As Bloomberg notes, technical training also provides young people with lucrative career opportunities in both vocational areas and for roles that require concrete skills. Apprenticeships are not to be dismissed, and can be as valuable to businesses in providing technical ability as university study.
In any event, with the ‘unemployable graduate’ crisis in full swing, organisations will need to invest in new technologies that enable them to reliably recruit more candidates with appropriate skillsets. Using scientifically-validated assessments, employers can objectively measure candidates’ performance in order to find recruits who will perform exceptionally in the role.
With such uncertainty in the UK market, employers – as well as universities, the government and students – need to act quickly to fill these skills gaps. A silver lining of this talent shortage is that organisations now possess a clearer picture of the specific skills they’re lacking – and in turn, a better sense of the skills that must be cultivated in university-leavers. To enact real change in the recruitment landscape, this knowledge is power.