Is there a lack of skills amongst graduates seeking technology jobs?

Posted by | August 18, 2014 | Career Advice | No Comments

It’s a common complaint amongst employers that graduates just don’t have the professional skills to match their academic achievements. Graduates looking for their first tech jobs are said to be particularly lacking in the basic skills needed to thrive in a business environment. But are graduates really leaving university unprepared for work? If so, is there anything employers can do to address the problem?

Today’s university leavers are often accused of lacking the ‘soft skills’ needed to work in a professional environment. Skills such as the ability to communicate effectively and knowledge of how to behave professionally are vital in any workplace, and if candidates can’t show that they are personable and articulate when being interviewed for a graduate position, they are unlikely to get very far, no matter what industry they are looking to get in to.

But IT graduates are said to be particularly lacking in the personal skills they need for the workplace. While they might be brilliant at coding, they may not have much of an understanding of how to work as a team, or how to lead a group. IT courses don’t tend to include many collaborative projects, which could be part of the problem, and some universities are addressing the issue by assigning students with more group projects so that they get used to working with others.

Graduates often leave university with little or no real work experience, and this can mean that they lack basic business acumen. Students who take on work experience during their studies tend to have a better understanding of how a business operates, and less of a knowledge gap when it comes to areas such as finance and marketing.

But perhaps employers are expecting too much from recent graduates. University courses are, after all, focused on academic achievement, and business skills and knowledge can be picked up in the workplace. Some, like Caroline Plumb, CEO of research and recruitment company FreshMinds, says that employers are not doing enough to train graduates in the skills that they need to improve. She sees many graduates through her work and says that “employers want ‘oven-ready’ graduates, but are not themselves investing on that front”.

Lack of investment in training could well be part of the problem. The reason for this is largely economic, as smaller companies often can’t afford to train new employees. Employing someone for life has become a thing of the past, and this means that companies are becoming even more reluctant to invest.

But workplace training is beneficial for businesses in the long run, and can result in greater loyalty from employees. Training fills gaps in employees’ skills sets, so that if a graduate comes into a tech position with great technical skills but no personal skills, this problem can be identified and solved, resulting in a more well-rounded employee.

So when employers complain of graduates lacking certain professional skills, perhaps they need to think about what they can do to address the problem themselves. Workplace training could be a solid solution, and this investment could provide great rewards for technology companies in the future.

About Mark Lennard

Mark has 24 years of experience in the UK staffing industry from working as a recruiter to setting up recruitment businesses within IT, Law and Medical sectors.