More than one in five businesses have had to provide remedial support to bring graduates’ basic skills up to an acceptable level in the last year, a study says.
The annual CBI/Pearson Education and Skills Survey, based on responses from 310 companies employing more than 1.2 million people, found that 22 per cent of respondents said they had provided basic skills training for university leavers over the last 12 months. This was up from 15 per cent in 2014.
The most common area for assistance was numeracy, with 12 per cent of employers providing support in this area.
The majority of employers expressed satisfaction with a broad range of graduate skill levels, but about one in six reported dissatisfaction with university leavers’ basic literacy and use of English (17 per cent), and 19 per cent were unhappy with their analytical skills.
Higher proportions of respondents were not satisfied with graduates’ problem solving (21 per cent), attitude to work (25 per cent), and their knowledge about their chosen career (33 per cent).
Asked to identify their priority areas for improvements in higher education, 50 per cent of employers said that they would like to see undergraduate courses made more “business relevant”. Forty per cent wanted to see more done to ensure that students are “job-ready” on graduation.
The report, published on 13 July, highlights employers’ concerns about their ability to recruit sufficient people with the high-level skills they require in the years ahead.
Expertise in science, technology, engineering and mathematics is a priority, but 41 per cent of employers said they were currently experiencing or expected to experience difficulties in recruiting graduates with this background.
More than a third (34 per cent) reported that the quality of STEM graduates was not good enough.
The report concludes that collaboration between businesses and universities needs to be deepened, to meet demand for high-level skills.
Katja Hall, the CBI’s deputy director-general, said firms were “facing a skills emergency now, threatening to starve economic growth”.
Rod Bristow, the president of Pearson’s UK business, added: “It is overwhelmingly clear from the research that employers are looking for education, above all else, to be a better preparation for the workplace.
“Skills such as communication, teamworking, grit and leadership must be nurtured throughout our education system in order to enable young people to enter the workplace with confidence and to realise their ambitions in a modern economy.”