Why so many managers think recent college graduates are unprepared for work

PayScale and Future Workplace released a report this week on the workforce preparedness of grads in 2016.

A new report by PayScale and Future Workplace highlights a disconnect between recent graduates and employers on how prepared young workers are to enter the workforce. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)

When asked how prepared the class of 2016 is to enter the workforce, recent college graduates and their potential employers have very different answers.

According to a new report by compensation data provider PayScale and Future Workplace, a firm dedicated to re-imagining the workplace, only half of managers feel that employees who recently graduated from college are well prepared for the workforce, yet nearly 87 percent of recent grads feel ready.

The report surveyed over 63,000 managers and roughly 14,000 recent college graduates in the U.S. in early 2016.

Hard and soft skills

Why was there such a disconnect between respondents? Managers said there are a few key skills that recent grads lack, including writing, public speaking, and critical thinking.


Rather than missing skills related to specific software programs or other tech knowledge, 44 percent of managers felt writing proficiency was the hard skill most lacking among recent college graduates, while public speaking followed with 39 percent of managers feeling this way.

Furthermore, 60 percent of managers said critical thinking/problem solving was the soft skill most lacking among recent college graduates. Attention to detail (56 percent) and communication (46 percent), followed close behind.

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“Students think they’re prepared for the working world and they’re not,” said Dan Schawbel, research director at Future Workplace. “Writing, public speaking, and problem solving skills are the fundamentals of business and are not taught in our school systems.”

The report also looked at which skills are most likely to get workers a promotion and which skills to leave off a resume.

While the most common skills found on the resumes of executives were business management, IT management, and profit and loss statements, the skills managers don’t get excited by are “foundational skills”  — like listing “fast typer”on your resume when applying for a job in writing.

Schawbel had some recommendations for employees who want to improve on the most sought-after skills.

“The more you read, the better writer you become,” Schawbel said. “Public speaking is also important, especially as you rise in the ranks at your company, so try getting in front of people more. In class, raise your hand and be more aggressive. Put yourself outside your comfort zone more often. As for problem solving, align yourself with difficult projects and focus on taking the lead and solving problems using critical thinking skills.”



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