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What Does 'Graduate Employability' Mean?

Posted by Kate Smedley on 17 Nov 2016

There’s been much discussion recently over whether or not there are too many graduates in the UK jobs market and if those graduates are employable, but what does that mean?

Employers have long raised concerns over the lack of graduate skills and their ability to adapt to the working environment. CIPD Chief Executive Peter Cheese has previously highlighted growing concern over the ‘basic employability skills’ of graduates entering the jobs market. 

Employability defined?

There is, however, still a lack of clarity around what constitutes an ‘employable graduate’. Times Higher Education (THE) reports that most recruiters rank the top two indicators of employability as ‘professional experience’ and a ‘high degree of specialisation’. These are both criteria that can be quickly screened through HR technology according to your specific company requirements.  

THE also observes that recruiters tend to rate a graduate’s employability value according to which University they have studied at. This inevitably raises concern over diversity, especially in the light of the newly published State Of The Nation Report 2016 from the Social Mobility Commission. The report reveals the extent of the barriers to social mobility in the UK.

The need for objective hiring is vital to attract the best talent, particularly in sectors such as engineering which requires double the number of graduates to meet predicted demand.

Soft skills

Employability ideally requires a combination of critical technical skills coupled with appropriate soft skills. LinkedIn ranked the top soft skills in 2016 for all employees as:-

  • Communication
  • Organisational skills
  • Team player
  • Punctuality
  • Critical Thinker

Integrating relevant skills tests during the hiring process will identify the candidates that meet your company's own criteria. 

The impact of AI

Artificial intelligence also influences graduate jobs and what it means to be ‘employable’. The Big Four accountancy firms, Deloitte, EY, PwC and KPMG are automating growing numbers of entry level jobs which would normally be filled by graduates, changing the types of roles available. 

The government’s ‘Success As A Knowledge Economy’ further acknowledges the problems of graduate employability while highlighting the levels of unemployment among STEM students. The skills required are changing at a rapid pace and educational institutions aren’t always keeping pace with that change.

Not equipped for work?

A further issue facing graduate employers is a report from UKES which states that only 51% of students feel equipped to face the world of work. HR can take the initiative in this instance by adopting the following strategies in hiring processes:-

  • Implement paid internships as part of your ongoing graduate recruitment programme. Interns demonstrating the ability and aptitude to meet your company requirements can be tagged and fast tracked through your ATS during candidate screening. 
  • Manage expectations during the hiring process related to job prospects, training and what the role entails on a day-to-day basis. Accenture's UK University Graduate Employment Study found that 70% of graduates feel they are ‘underemployed’ in their current role.
  • Provide mentors and one-to-one reviews on a regular basis, addressing the problem areas for your graduate hires.
  • Offer digital skills training. Employers often expect graduates to arrive in the working environment fully equipped with digital skills to meet business needs but the reality is very different. The UK is facing a significant digital skills shortage across all levels.
  • Consider degree apprenticeships. KPMG recently linked up with the Open University to offer higher level apprenticeships in three specific areas, namely healthcare practitioner, chartered manager and digital and technical solutions. 
  • Follow Dyson’s example. The company recently announced the launch of the Dyson Institute of Technology in 2017, offering 25 students the opportunity to work with their engineering team while studying for a degree. Our engineering sector analysis explores this and other issues facing graduate employment in more detail.

It's not not all bad news. The Global University Employability Ranking for 2016 places the UK third, after the US and Germany. But what graduate employability means for your business will depend on your brand, your hiring needs, your willingness to invest in your staff and your long-term business goals. Without a streamlined hiring process that quickly identifies the talent in your pipeline, your organisation will struggle to achieve those aims or define what it means to you.

HR technology that supports your graduate recruitment goals is essential to achieve this. 

Advorto’s world class recruitment software addresses your graduate employability issues by helping you to hire the best graduate talent faster. Find out how. Start your 30 day free trial today.

You might also like to read:-

Improve Your Graduate Recruitment Success In 2017

Why Your Time To Hire Is Losing You Talent (& How To Fix It)

For a summary of the graduate recruitment issues faced by employers this year and how to resolve them, download your free copy of our essential guide here.

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Topics: graduate recruitment

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