Graduate employability: One in five UK graduates not workplace-ready

Survey reveals 17% of graduates are seen as underprepared for the workplace – 18% of graduates blame university

Many UK graduates are still entering the workplace without the necessary employability skills, according to a new Pearson Business School survey into graduate employability.

The survey has revealed nearly one in five (17%) graduates are viewed by businesses as not being workplace-ready after leaving university. Furthermore, 18% of graduates believe university failed to prepare them adequately for the world of work.

  • HRs identify leadership (48%), negotiation (44%) and strategy and planning (38%) as key skills missing from UK graduates
  • Only 24% (one in four) UK graduates had practised for interviews while studying at university, despite 98% of HRs believing interview performance is important
  • While over two-thirds (69%) of HR managers indicated graduates as somewhat ready for the workplace, only 13% stated that graduates were ready to hit the ground running
  • Of the graduates surveyed, 18% believe that university did not fully equip them for the world of work, identifying their key missing skills as leadership (34%), negotiation (25%) and technical skills (23%)
  • Just over a third (37%) of graduates spoke to a career advisor before leaving university, while only 35% had enhanced their online profile

“These results show that employers are increasingly looking for applicants who have developed employability skills and have gained experience whilst studying for their degree,” said Roxanne Stockwell, principal of Pearson College London.

“There have been great gains in recent years in integrating higher education with industry, but clearly there is still more to be done. Educational institutions need to collaborate with business in order to ensure students develop skills such as leadership and negotiation in order to enhance the employability of today’s young workforce. The survey shows that there is an appetite for this among both students and employers.”

Employers are increasingly looking for applicants who have developed employability skills and have gained experience whilst studying for their degree – Roxanne Stockwell, Pearson College

However, HR managers also stated that recently employed graduates do arrive into the workplace well equipped with teamwork skills (76%), problem solving (76%), communication skills (75%) and research skills (75%). Furthermore, three quarters (75%) of graduates said that they had undertaken work experience while studying at university, with over three in five (61%) of HRs saying relevant work experience is more important than the grades achieved by graduates.

The new survey saw polling company Survation question 1,012 graduates and 531 senior HR managers from across the UK. The results echo those in last November’s CBI/Pearson Plc, Education and learning for the modern world report, which found that two-fifths (40%) of employers are either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the wider character, behaviours, and attributes of school and college leavers.


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