Employers still irked by lack of graduate skills

September 11, 2008

Business leaders have reiterated concerns about the quality of UK graduates in a new survey.

Employers are concerned about the literacy, numeracy and employability of today's students, according to the survey conducted by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI). It found that improving education standards tops the list in its annual survey of employers' concerns, monitoring trends in employment and the workplace.

Almost a quarter of those questioned (23 per cent) said that graduates struggled with literacy, and 20 per cent complained about poor numeracy. A quarter said they were unhappy with graduates' employability skills. Employers also perceive a growing demand for graduate-level skills - more than three quarters (78 per cent) said there would be increased demand for high-level leadership and management, and two thirds (66 per cent) said they needed graduates with technical skills.

A CBI task force is to look at ways to help graduates become more employable. "Business must play its part here by providing high-quality work experience," the 2008 employment trends survey Pulling Through says. "(It) must be more relevant to help graduates develop their employability skills."

"The labour market cannot thrive without an adequately skilled workforce," said Richard Lambert, CBI director general. "The message from business is clear: ensuring that young people leave education with the functional skills to prosper is essential to everyone's future prosperity."

Philip Ternouth, associate director of research and development and knowledge transfer at the Council for Industry and Higher Education, said it should not be up to businesses to tell universities that basic skills should be possessed by graduates seeking employment.

"If we are allowing large numbers of people to graduate without basic skills there is something wrong with the messages we are communicating to schools about the expectation of the standards people should reach," he said. "It should not be for universities to remedy this, but it is for universities to set standards."

hannah.fearn@tsleducation.com.

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