Australian bosses find graduate applicants deficient

February 18, 2000

More than three in every four graduates from Australia's universities and technical colleges are unsuitable for the jobs they apply for, according to a national survey of employers.

New graduates were perceived by employers to be most deficient in "creativity and flair", oral business communication and problem-solving skills. Yet several of the new graduates' highest rated skills - such as customer focus and the ability to benefit from on-the-job training - were considered less important by employers. The deficiencies most often cited were lack of communication and interpersonal skills and ignorance of business practice.

The survey covered more than 1,100 Australian employers who had recruited a new graduate in the past two years.

It found that unsuitable applicants were most numerous in the hospitality industry and among students from the services, hospitality and transport fields.

The capacity for independent and critical thinking was rated of great importance by employers and "seems to be the skill that most sets apart successful from unsuccessful applicants", the report says.

Overall, university graduates were rated more highly by employers than those from technical colleges. But graduates of engineering and surveying courses from both sectors were perceived to be poor in many skills, particularly at problem-solving and oral business communications. The highest-rating graduates either had arts/humanities and social sciences qualifications or business/administration and economics degrees.

Federal education minister David Kemp said the report was valuable and could be used by tertiary institutions to help them improve courses to give students relevant training. "Although most Australian employers are generally satisfied with the skills of the graduates they employ, there is still a need for students to be encouraged to develop problem-solving and creative thinking skills," Dr Kemp said.

However, the results of the survey contradict those of another on recent technical college graduates. In this case, more than eight out of ten employers reported being satisfied or very satisfied with vocational education.

The survey found that seven in every ten employers believed vocational education and training gave graduates skills appropriate to their needs. Three in four thought that training paid for itself through increased productivity.

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