Are Today’s Graduates Work Ready? Employers Don’t Think So

May 24th, 2014 No Comments Other

graduate career ladder

The cost of higher education has been climbing steadily over the past ten years, and ideally this would translate into highly skilled, work-ready graduates hitting the job market.

Unfortunately, this is not the case, and according to a recent report by Chegg, just 50% of students feel prepared for the workplace after graduation. On the employers’ end, only 39% believe that graduates are very or completely prepared for a job in their field of study.

The report focuses on the increasing gap between employer expectations and actual student preparation in the hopes of helping students understand what the issues are, and the best way to address them.

“That recent graduates are suffering high rates of unemployment and underemployment isn’t news,” says Usher Lieberman, VP Corporate Communications at Chegg.

“As a student-first company, we wanted to understand the root causes and begin bridging the gap between the skills students graduate with, and the skills demanded by employers in our modern workforce,” he explains.

In order to do this, the researchers asked students to rate their perceived proficiency in an array of skills that employers rate as being necessary. These results were then compared with a survey of hiring managers who had been asked to rate recent graduates’ actual proficiency across the same skills.

“The results were glaring,” says Lieberman.

“Fewer than two in five hiring managers say the recent college graduates they have interviewed were completely or very prepared for a job in their field of study, and by and large, students haven’t mastered “office street smarts,” or the soft skills of communication and leadership.”

He notes that the differences between hiring managers’ and student perceptions are particularly wide in terms of ‘business basics’, such as prioritizing work, organizational skills and leading a group toward a common goal.

The widest gap of 27 percentage points was found in the area of “prioritizing work,” with 77% of students, but only 50% of hiring managers, saying that they were prepared.

So what is the cause of this growing gap and what can be done to better prepare students for the job market they will need to navigate once they graduate?

“Unfortunately, students today are being taught in largely the same way that students 200 years ago were instructed; using many of the same materials, and lectures,” says Lieberman.

“In an economy where some of the required skills simply didn’t exist five years ago and the skills required five years from now may not have even been invented yet, sticking to what worked 200 years ago simply isn’t enough.”

To ensure students receive the updated education they deserve, Lieberman believes that employers and educational institutions need to collaborate to drive meaningful internships and co-operative programs that mix book smarts and on-the-job experiences.

“This combination will drive experiential learning and allow students to benchmark their assumptions against the realities of the workplace,” he says.

He also notes that the importance of extra-curricular learning should be emphasized, as these types of activities generate the “office street smarts” that employers are looking for.

Additionally, students can proactively seek out ways to augment their skills through self-paced learning, coursework and co-ops.

“Students can and are trying to help themselves,” says Lieberman. “But we need to contribute, as employers, educators, parents and citizens if we want skilled employees and a vibrant economy.”

The full report as well as recommendations, resources and guides to improve career success can be found at Chegg Pulse.


Marianne Stenger is a London-based freelance writer and journalist with extensive experience covering all things learning and development. She’s particularly interested in the psychology of learning and how technology is changing the way we learn. Her articles have been featured by the likes of ABC Education, The Huffington Post, Lifehacker, and Psych Central. Follow her on Twitter @MarianneStenger.

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