The Confederation of British Industry has declared that applicants for graduate jobs are failing to meet business’ high expectations.

Susan Anderson, CBI director for education and skills, announced:

“Employability skills are the most important attributes that businesses look for in new recruits, but graduates are currently falling short of employers’ expectations. Competition for jobs is intense and graduate unemployment remains high, so students need to proactively develop relevant employability skills. But at the same time all universities need to explain these skills better and make sure they embed them in teaching.”

The CBI has also quoted findings that over 80% of businesses say that ’employability’ skills are the most important consideration when recruiting graduates. In other words, employers now expect graduates to turn up on Day One ready to do the job, without them being required to provide any basic training.

Could it be that graduates are no more ‘green’ than they ever where – it’s just that businesses have got stingier about training you properly, because they know the dire graduate job market means that they’ve got you over a barrel? Instead of putting their hand in their pocket to do what employers have always done before (invest in their young staff), is it possible that businesses are simply opting for the easier (and cheaper) option of blaming you lot – and your university – for being rubbish?

Even more disturbingly, it seems that young people are accepting that what business says is fact. New figures reveal that two-thirds of students think universities don’t do enough to support the teaching of vital ’employability’ skills for their jobs post university, such as customer awareness, team working and self management.

Am I missing something? Why on earth should it be your university’s responsibility to teach you “customer awareness, team working and self management”? These are business skills – and that’s why business should pick up the bill for teaching them.

Yes, young people are increasingly going to university because they want to get a better job (rather than simply because of your love of learning). But unless I’ve missed something, university’s primary purpose is still to teach you the subject you chose to learn there. Making you ‘work-ready’ was never part of the deal.

Eh? Is Graduate Fogdefending universities, for once? Yes, actually.

As regular readers will know, I am not often seen leaping to the defense of the universities – which I think need an urgent re-think to ensure they provide advice and information that is actually useful to their students and graduates planning their next move after university.

However, I think pushing all the blame on to them to make you ‘work perfect’ when you start a new job is unfair. I’m irritated by the CBI’s assumption that universities should now start providing the sort of training that THEY used to provide for young workers. How dare they demand that universities do their job for them?

Not long ago, training was something that employers factored in when hiring graduate recruits. You had a degree, which showed you were intelligent and hard-working. They hired graduates based on your potential, not on your experience (because it was assumed that you wouldn’t have any experience – because you’d been at university, see?) Employers accepted that it was their responsibility to train you up so that you could do the job really well in a few months’ time. They did NOT expect you to know everything, have experience and get it all right on Day One.

My theory? That by continuing to knock graduates’ confidence by implying you that you’re not good enough, employers maintain the upper hand in the recruitment war. The more they tell you your labour is worthless without experience, the more crap you’re willing to put up with from them.

Scarily, their strategy is already working. Too many of you effectively already pay to train yourselves, in the form of unpaid internships. The latest batch of graduates aren’t even questioning this horrific situation, simply accepting it as a fact of life. Worse still, we are now seeing the rise of Stockholm Syndrome interns, who are convinced their employer is doing them a huge favour in allowing them to work there, unpaid.

Enough. It’s time that businesses stopped distorting young people’s idea of what it means to be a worker. All employees deserve to be paid for their labour – and all employees need some training when they start a new job. If employers want to get the best out of their graduates recruits, they should stop telling you how rubbish you are – and start telling you the truth about how much value you really bring.

*Do employers deliberately make graduates feel worthless?
Do you blame your university for failing to equip you for the world of work – or should businesses take more responsibility for training their junior staff?

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap