Businesses say graduates lack employment skills

Picture: Jane Barlow
Picture: Jane Barlow
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A THIRD of businesses in Scotland have increased graduate recruitment in the past year, above the UK average, but employers remain concerned about how ready new graduates are for the reality of the workplace.

A survey of over 300 businesses, including 93 in Scotland, which together employ over a million people, found 34 per cent of employers identifying shortcomings in graduates’ self-management and resilience, 25 per cent concerned about their communication skills and nearly half (45 per cent) not satisfied with graduates’ levels of business and customer awareness.

The annual 2015 CBI/Pearson Education and Skills Survey of UK businesses found the key to ensuring graduates are skilled for the workplace is deeper collaboration between business and university.

Scottish businesses want higher education institutions doing more to improve the business relevance of courses and help students prepare for the employment market.

But businesses north of the Border recognise the value of strong links with universities with 70 per cent having developed links with universities. A further four in ten are offering graduate internships.

Roxanne Stockwell, principal of Pearson College London, said: “While it is excellent news that graduates are in demand in Scotland, it is worrying that firms are finding that many graduates they recruit aren’t properly prepared for the world of work.

“Universities have a responsibility to ensure that all students leave with the right attitudes and aptitudes that businesses need to succeed.

“Many universities have good links with businesses, but it’s time for deeper collaboration – with courses designed in partnership with employers and work placements built in as standard.”

However, a spokeswoman for Universities Scotland said the majority of graduates of Scottish universities were “job ready”.

“Scotland’s universities are committed to developing highly skilled and entrepreneurial graduates with the right knowledge, skills and attitude to succeed in their careers. A close relationship with employers is key to this and universities are open to all forms of employer input from the co-design of curricula and provision of placements through to accreditation from the relevant trade bodies.

“We understand that employers put a lot of emphasis on attitude and aptitudes. That’s the reason employability has been such a focus for all institutions in Scotland including the development of a set of graduate attributes that focus in on the softer skills set such as communication and problem-solving.

“We’d be interested to understand these findings in more detail as a different employer survey in Scotland recently found close to 90 per cent of employers rate graduates to be well or very well prepared for the world of work.

“Data published earlier this year showed graduates from Scotland’s 19 higher education institutions have the best record of professional level jobs in the UK; and that graduates from Scottish universities had the highest mean average starting salaries in the UK at £22,500.”

Rob Henthorn, NUS Scotland vice-president, education, said: “Education is hugely valuable in and of itself, but students should also be able to apply the knowledge they’ve gained in ways that benefit them after graduation. To prepare our graduates for the challenges of work, our institutions need to make sure they’re supplying their students with relevant, up-to-date knowledge and skills.

“In the coming year, NUS Scotland will be working to make sure that all Scottish students have the opportunity learn not just in the lecture halls and classrooms, but also through fully paid, high-quality internships and work experience.”