49 per cent of businesses report graduates lack vital employability skills – how can this be improved? | Claire Granados

Claire Granados, Principal, Quest Professional white background hi-resClaire Granados, Principal at Quest Professionala business college focused on equipping A-level and university leavers with the business acumen, employability and interview skills required to fast-track aspiring students into the world of work – gives her opinion on how to equip young people with the essential tools to succeed in the world of work.

49 per cent of businesses believe that a large proportion of graduates ‘do not have the skills expected of them at the point of hiring says the Association of Graduate Recruiters in its latest survey.

This is a shocking statistic, particularly when you consider that the desire to find a job is amongst the top motivations for attending university.

As a former business leader myself, I believe the lack of key skills amongst graduates is certainly an area in which UK institutions need to improve. Schools and universities need to examine the skills businesses require and build these into the courses offered to students enabling them to hit the ground running when starting their careers.

Top of the list for businesses – and flagged by organisations as varied as Microsoft and the BBC – is sector awareness. Candidates who can demonstrate they have a good awareness of the business and wider marketplace will move to the top of an employer’s hiring list. Knowledge of companies’ main competitors, their threats to expansion and governing principles will also impress an interviewer.

Also key are effective communication skills. This doesn’t just mean being well-spoken in an interview – it also encompasses strong presentation skills, audience awareness, the ability to communicate as part of a team and knowing how to summarise information concisely. Developing and honing these skills before entering the workplace will ensure that students are able to confidently begin their careers and achieve success from the outset.

Time management is also crucial. Teaching students not to be chained to emails, to prioritise tasks and meet multiple deadlines is another important skill which cannot be gained solely through essay assignments. Good candidates should be able to demonstrate that they can cope with multiple tasks as well as perform under pressure.

Strong team work is another essential skill. Very few university assignments require students to work as part of a team and simple skills like communicating with colleagues and reporting to superiors are often lacking in graduates. Part of being a good team player is the ability to motivate others and foster a positive attitude. Employees who demonstrate a sullen or unmotivated demeanor are unlikely to progress no matter how competent they may be. On the flip side, employees who are polite, personable and enthusiastic to progress will always impress managers – and mark them out as future candidates to move up the corporate ladder. 

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