A new beginning
By Jackie Grisdale
As school leavers and undergraduates across the country speed towards the end of the academic year, a new start is on the horizon for many. The transition into a new workplace. It is a process full of emotion. Euphoria at getting the offer. Excitement about the opportunities ahead. Apprehension about what it will really be like. And for some, a nervousness if their skills will match up.
The issue of preparation for the workplace is one that has always interested me. That transition from education and how students can best prepare. Sure, there are lots of opportunities for students to develop their skills. Recent research from Bright Network stated that over 50% of this year’s graduates have done an internship or spring week, giving them an opportunity to start to hone these skills before they end their time at university. But still, less than half of them when asked felt that they were well prepared for the world of work, according to research from Reputation Consultancy.
Mind the gap
Perhaps not surprisingly, their confidence in their basic academic skills is high, although the Reputation Consultancy research shows females are slightly more confident than males in this regard. But what really stands out for me from all the research I have seen on this topic is the lack of confidence and preparation students have in their ‘soft’ employability skills.
The High Fliers 2019 Careers Survey states just a fifth of this year’s finalists felt they had at least three personal skills or attributes which they class as ‘excellent’. The Reputation Consultancy research showed that a significant 50% of students state having the confidence to communicate with others and make their voice heard is the aspect of work they feel least prepared for. An issue felt more strongly by females than males. 43% listed having the communication and self-awareness skills to be an effective employee as the aspect that they feel least prepared for.
But, perhaps even more surprisingly, 45.5% feel the aspect of work they are least prepared for is having the necessary IT and technology skills required for their role. And in Bright Network’s research, a quarter of students cited that they want to improve their IT skills. Curious, for a generation described as digital natives. But, here could lie the indication as to why there is a disconnect between education and the workplace. Assumption.
This is brought to life from both sides in Bright Network’s ‘What do Graduates Want? 2019’ report. There is a clear disconnect in the skills employers are looking for and what students think employers find important. Students listed a 2.1 in their degree and industry relevant experience as top of the list of what employers want. But for employers, communication skills and a passion for business are given as the most desirable traits.
Break the deadlock
So, what exactly can you do, as employers, to give the future generation the confidence in the skills they need, and that you are ultimately looking for?
Well for a start, don’t assume. Don’t assume their knowledge about who you are, what you are looking for and why they should want to work for you. Make it clear through all of your communications.
Give them an experience. Too much on-campus activity is targeted at the transactional end of the recruitment process in my opinion. Take the time to build a relationship. Deliver insight and skills development sessions that help students understand how they can build and showcase their skills. They probably are good communicators, they just don’t know it yet!
Take them on a journey. Build relationships and engage with them in a meaningful way through the process. And make it a positive experience. You’ll support in ensuring the right fit, you’ll give them the skills they need to be successful and, if you are lucky, you’ll get a great brand advocate at the end of it too.
It all sounds so simple and a bit obvious doesn’t it? But the continuing gap between student and employer expectations shows we aren’t getting it right yet. So, as you begin to prepare for next year’s campaigns, take a critical look at how you are engaging with your student audiences. Remove the assumption and look at what the facts and data tell you. And why not get in touch to have a chat with us to see if we can help you attract the right students, with the right skills, that you need for your business.