New study claims soft skills valued over technical knowledge in graduates

The Telegraph is reporting a new study that claims effective communication and an ability to work as part of a team are valued more highly than technical knowledge by graduate employers.

The survey of 198 UK employers found that soft skills, including confidence and an ability to be analytical were all valued more than technical knowledge by employers at the recruitment stage.

When asked to rank a list of 30 competencies required or desired by employers, technical knowledge ranked 24th, while effective communication ranked first.

Further soft skills such as being a team player, ranked 3rd, confidence ranked 5th and the ability to be analytical ranked 6th. Ability in numeracy, however, was also ranked highly in 2nd.

The study, Graduate Recruitment, Learning and development, published by education provider, Kaplan, also found that 75 per cent of employers found it either moderately or very difficult to find the right graduates for their positions.

However, 60 per cent of these employers – representing, among others, accountancy, business and finance, manufacturing, legal, and retail – believe that every second graduate will become a future leader within their business.

The findings mirror that of the report published last week from the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) which revealed that while employers in the UK are predicting an increase of 17 per cent in the number of graduate vacancies available this year, 23 per cent of employers surveyed did not fill all of their graduate vacancies in 2013.

The report by Kaplan suggests that in spite of the increasing number of work opportunities, businesses still say they are not seeing enough candidates with the employability skills they need.

The report goes on to highlight that, two years after recruitment, the high importance placed on ‘technical knowledge’ – which rises from 24th to 2nd – could indicate that employers consider it their responsibility to train new recruits with the technical skills needed for the role.

If these findings are valid then the study raises some interesting questions: should soft skills and personal development be a bigger part of school and, especially, university education? Is it easier to let the recruiters train the specific technical skills required? How does all this fit with the changes to assessment being introduced in schools? 


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