Be specific

November 26, 2015

There are plenty of things that drive me nuts about the higher education sphere and its planetary system, but one of the worst offenders is the contention by “employers” that students lack “skills” and are unready for work when they graduate.

Apart from the observation that of course they are unready for work – like any experiential life event, gaining workplace skills is a cumulative process – the most annoying thing is that the missing “skills” are rarely, if ever, specified, either in reports from industry figures or in reports by Times Higher Education such as “Should UK universities be doing more to produce work-ready graduates?” (Opinion, 19 November).

I suspect it is because, as William Goldman said in a different context, nobody knows anything – employers can’t be specific because they don’t know what they are looking for; reporters can’t tell us because the employers can’t tell them.

So unless and until those representing employers or sectors of industry are prepared to say exactly what is unsatisfactory about graduates and the specific skills they lack, we should not have to listen to any further generalised grumbling from them.

Tim Holmes
Associate director
Centre for Journalism
Cardiff University

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