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Time to address the graduate soft skills gap

Tuesday 9th June

Time to address the graduate soft skills gap

How best to explain to your child on their first day of school that, rather than being a doctor, lawyer or an astronaut, they’re more likely to land a job that doesn’t yet exist?

Because of the non-stop impact of new technologies, it’s estimated that 65% of all new school starters are in this position today. The question is: do new grads have the skills necessary to succeed in this changing world?

Mind the gap

A CareerBuilder survey found that just 20% of companies feel their graduates are arriving ‘ready to go’. In other words, a perfect fit for the job. Yes, graduates naturally need room for development, but there’s one worrying aspect to all this: it’s not their technical expertise that’s in doubt. Instead, it’s their soft skills. What many top sports coaches call the ‘intangibles’.

Hard skills will always be in demand. A visionary coder or engineer will generally be in demand, regardless of their soft skills. But, as experts predict that automation will absorb thousands of common workplace tasks, qualities like flexibility, curiosity and emotional intelligence become increasingly valuable.

We can partially attribute the skills gap to two frustrating factors:

  • An expectations gap between graduates and recruiters
  • Styles of education
Expectation gaps

There’s a fundamental gap between the skills grads think will be vital, and the skills employers actually want. Grads, for example, place data skills and resilience as their 12th and 13th priorities. But these were actually placed 4th and 5th by recruiters. The same study, conducted by QS, also found similar gaps when it comes to creativity, adaptability and leadership – all vital soft skills. Especially vital, you could say, as the value of certain hard skills becomes more uncertain due to technological advances.

With this expectation chasm in mind, has it ever been harder to find grads that match both your values and your expectations?

Styles of education

Picture this. Your child, now a graduate engineer, will have left university with a wealth of applicable technical knowledge. But they’ll probably never have seen a section on flexibility in their textbooks (unless it’s referring to the structural kind…).

So now, overhauls are underway at many institutes to assure students (and parents!) that, upon paying those princely fees, they’ll be ready for an job market that’s now more uncertain than ever. These include increased coverage of digital and soft skills – something hiring managers will surely welcome.

The “unknown” worth knowing

It’s clear that companies able to keenly assess soft skills – those “intangibles” – will be best-placed to find and hire they people they need to be successful as work continues to change. But you might be asking yourself at this point:

“How can I measure a candidate’s soft skills, and make the right hiring decision?”

Our answer (perhaps unsurprisingly) would be a behavioural assessment. Measuring soft skills is a great way to really see a candidate’s potential in your role. And, by capturing candidates’ behaviour, you no longer need to rely on your gut. It’s a quick way to leap the skills gap, and find what you really need.

Have you seen the skills gap first hand? Time to traverse it with a new way to assess. Arrange your demonstration here.

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