Schools ‘vital link’ in closing graduate skills gap say firms

Graduates often lack certain skills say recruitment experts. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto
Graduates often lack certain skills say recruitment experts. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto
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Half of employers think graduates lack essential workplace skills they need when first hired, according to a report.

The Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) said many graduates lack necessary qualities, such as teamwork and problem-solving.

The AGR said these “soft” skills should be taught in schools as leaving it to universities and employers is too late.

Last night Seamus Searson, general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association, said schools may need to consider creating modules similar to the TV programme The Apprentice, focussing on leadership skills and role play.

Overall, 49 per cent of the 174 AGR members surveyed said “graduates generally do not have the skills expected of them at the point of hiring”, while on average, one in four intake graduates (25 per cent) lack them.

It said secondary school was the best place to learn skills including self-awareness, problem-solving, interpersonal skills and teamwork, while the workplace was ­suited to managing, deal with conflict and negotiate, while also teaching commercial awareness.

Stephen Isherwood, AGR chief executive, said there needed to be more co-ordination across schools, universities and businesses.

“By the time students reach university and employment, essential employability skills should be ingrained, so it’s just a matter of refinement. A focus on soft skills will develop better students, more productive employees and more engaged citizens.”

Mr Searson said: “These skills need to be taught right from the start, not just in secondary school.

“But there is such a push to get the academic qualifications that it gets pushed aside.”