National / News / April 10, 2013

Academia Examined: Employers report that graduates lack job skills

In the midst of high unemployment for recent college graduates, employers are still struggling to hire people in entry-level positions that require a B.A. with the skills they need.

That was the finding of a report recently published jointly by American Public Media and The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Fifty-three percent of surveyed employers reported that it was either “difficult” or “very difficult” to fill vacancies with qualified graduates, citing poor communication, problem solving and reasoning skills as some of the issues that plague new hires.

A similar report conducted by McKinsey showed that only 45 percent of employers feel that graduates are competent at problem solving, and half have the written communication skills they need.

This comes at the same time as unemployment and underemployment are at historically high levels among recent college graduates. A recent study by Drexel University economist Paul Harrington found that over half of all bachelor’s degree holders under 25 are either unemployed or underemployed.

Meanwhile, 45 percent of American employers in the McKinsey survey reported that this skill shortage is a leading cause of entry-level vacancies.

The McKinsey report blames lack of communication between schools, employers and students for this mismatch. It offers as a solution increased employer-school contact and increased use of apprenticeship programs, including the use of technological simulations as a way to give large numbers of students access to training.

Part of the reason for this comes because of a decreased emphasis on training programs among employers. Philip D. Gardner, director of the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University told the Chronicle, “Now companies expect everyone, recent graduates included, to be ready to go on Day One.”

Others fault American universities for doing a poor job to prepare their graduates for employment after graduation. In 2011, sociologists Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa released “Academically Adrift,” a book that created a firestorm in academia by suggesting that over a third of all graduates showed no measurable increase in academic skills after four years at college.

Arum and Roska’s research suggested that liberal arts schools, however, were still doing a fairly good job at improving student skills.

Matt Barry
Matt Barry is a senior majoring in international relations and double minoring in economics and German. This is his third year working for TKS, having served previously as discourse editor. He has worked for such organizations as the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Premier Tourism Marketing and the Council on American Islamic Relations-Chicago, where his work appeared in such publications as Leisure Group Travel, Ski & Ride Club Guide and The Chicago Monitor. Matt has written his political opinion column, "The Voice of Reason," weekly for three years, which finished in first place at the 2012 Illinois College Press Association conference and was also recognized at the 2013 conference.

Tags:  american public media drexel university employment mckinsey michigan state university paul harrington the chronicle of higher education unemployment

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