Employers aren’t getting what they want from graduates today.
Global higher education company Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) surveyed thousands of employers
and prospective students worldwide to examine the relationship between graduate skills and employer expectations.
The results? There’s a gap.
“It is commonly perceived that employers feel there is a graduate skills gap, suggesting that universities do not necessarily provide enough opportunities for students to develop skills critical for the labour market. This report confirms this perception for particular skills, and in every country surveyed,” the report wrote.
This gap is a “global and widespread issue” – for 13 of the 15 key employability skills identified here, demand far outstripped supply, with employers reporting that most of their graduate hires have failed to meet expectations.
If you’re a university student keen to narrow this gap (and make an impression in your future job interviews), these are the top five skills employers globally find most important, according to the report:
There is global consensus on this. The ability to solve problems is one highly valuable skill companies want and demand from their hires – it is valued with scores above 90 across Asia, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Latin America and North America. Only the African continent ranks it at 87.
While employers give it an average importance factor score of 96, this skill only gets a satisfaction factor score of just 67, which employers believe is due to universities underperforming in this area.
Teamwork makes the dream work, as they say, and to most employers, this is another crucial skill to have in any workplace.
However, on the student side, the three most important skills they believe ‘employers value most in new recruits, and hence they would like to develop at university’ are: creativity, organisational and problem-solving skills.
This finding underscores the need for more real-world experience (and thus more opportunities to work in groups) to be included as part of a university qualification, be it via internships, externships, industry placements, etc.
This is the third most in-demand skill, with an importance factor score of 95, but only achieving a satisfaction factor score of 71. Those planning to work in the UK should take note that employers there place a higher premium on communication, interpersonal, and technical skills and a lower premium on the depth of knowledge of a subject.
Indeed, the report also found that training on business communication has become more
common among UK businesses, reflecting the high value they place on this skill.
The old Chinese proverb goes: “A wise man adapts himself to circumstances, as water shapes itself to the vessel that contains it”. Many graduates aren’t able to shape themselves into different vessels, according to QS’s report, leading to low levels of satisfaction among employers.
This is the fourth most important skill according to employers, though there are variations in different parts of the world. Chinese employers prioritise resilience over adaptability, while Russian employers prioritise analytical skills and the depth of knowledge in a subject over adaptability and interpersonal skills.
5. Interpersonal skills
It’s defined as the skill we use to relate to others, by communicating and interacting, both individually and in groups. It’s what LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner deem as the number one skill many American employees are lacking: “Somewhat surprisingly … interpersonal skills is where we’re seeing the biggest imbalance,” Weiner told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” this April.
“Communication is the No. 1 skill gap across those major cities in the US.”
As much as strong interpersonal skills serve us well in our personal lives, our professional lives stand to benefit too. This is particularly so in the UK and in technology companies that hire MBA graduates, according to the report.