Schools ‘essential to closing the skills gap’


Development of soft skills must begin at school as leaving it to universities and employers is too late, according to a survey by the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR).

A report launched today at the AGR’s Development Conference showed half (49%) of employers think graduates don’t have the skills expected of them at the time of hiring.

On average, employers reported a quarter of their graduate intake lack essential soft skills.

For nine out of 10 key soft skills, employers said the best time to learn them is outside of university. Almost two-thirds (61%) of employers agreed they need to work closer with schools to help close the skills gap.

Secondary school was cited as the best place to learn self-awareness, problem solving, interpersonal skills and teamwork in particular.

The AGR said employers supplement skills development at school and university by delivering around 1ten days of soft skills training. The workplace was commonly perceived as the best place to learn to manage-up, deal with conflict, negotiate and develop commercial awareness. Resiliency was the only skill employers felt was best developed at university.

Most employers said the majority of key employability skills can be learned within a year. While skills gaps could be quick to close with targeted action, half (51%) of employers said co-ordination is needed to identify common gaps.

Stephen Isherwood, AGR chief executive, said: “Skills work needs to start early. Leaving it just to universities and employers is too late. We need to see more emphasis on co-ordinated development across schools, universities and businesses rather than expecting higher education to take all of the brunt for preparing graduates for work. 

“By the time students reach university and employment essential employability skills should be ingrained, so it's just a matter of refinement. A focus on soft-skills will develop better students, more productive employees and more engaged citizens.”

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

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