Report: Students Lack Job Skills

    A recent report on students’ readiness for the workforce concluded that a large percentage of college graduates are not adequately prepared when entering the workplace, and found that a growing number of four-year college graduates lack workplace skill.

    According to the report, the applied skills that employers regarded as most important were “professionalism/work ethic,” “oral and written communication,” “teamwork/collaboration” and “critical thinking/problem solving.”

    The report rated employees according to three levels: deficient, adequate or excellent. According to over 400 employers who responded to the report, only 8.1 percent of employers responded that college graduates were “deficient” in teamwork/collaboration skills. In the area of general preparation, 64.5 percent of employers considered college graduates “adequate.”

    However, written communication was the skill with the highest rating of deficiency: 27.8 percent of employers responded that college graduates were “deficient” in written communication, 15.8 percent said they were “excellent” and the majority — 56.4 percent — said they were “adequate.”

    Nonprofit organizations the Conference Board, Corporate Voices for Working Families, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills and the Society of Human Resource Management jointly conducted the report.

    Jill Casner-Lotto, a research consultant for the Conference Board, stressed the need for college students’ focus on these applied skills.

    “Basic skills are important —such as reading, math, and basic writing — but this survey tells us that more advanced skills are also critical for success in workplace and global economy,” she said.

    According to Casner-Lotto, skills such as written communication are specifically important when simple business letters or even complex reports need to be written.

    John Muir College alumnus Steven Hong, who graduated in 2006, said that as a market assistant, written communication skills are important.

    “All those papers I had to write in college and doing research did help me in my writing in marketing,” he said.

    While Casner-Lotto said she does not know why there is a high rate of deficiency in applied skills, she said many college graduates are unprepared for the workforce possibly because university curriculum is too theoretical and lacks applications to the real world. Another possibility is that students do not receive enough hands-on experience, she said.

    “There should be more opportunities like internships where [students] really learn about the nature of work to be done in the corporation, being mentored by someone who can guide [them],” Casner-Lotto said.

    She said another possible solution is to have more collaboration between corporations and universities in order to cultivate important skills in the workplace.

    On campus, the Career Services Center offers three job fairs a year where employers come to campus to recruit prospective employees. Students are able to network with employers as well as search for full-time or part-time jobs or internships.

    Despite not having any internships or jobs during his college career, Hong said he believes he is still adequately prepared for the workforce with skills he acquired as a student.

    “I think learning the process of studying is useful for my job, not so much the content,” he said. “It taught me how to go about writing a paper, how to research the Web and how to find what I need.”

    For Thurgood Marshall College alumnus Ji Lee, who graduated in 2004, the results of the report are not a major concern.

    “UCs are very theoretical, but the knowledge from the UC system prepares you enough that when you go into a job, you can just learn on the job,” Lee said. “If you were competent in college, you’ll do just fine in the work force.”

    Lee said he does not believe that written communication skills will hinder his work ability.

    “I can’t communicate some ideas like I want to, but I don’t think I’m deficient in that regard,” he said. “My job doesn’t deal with communicating with other people. My work revolves around Microsoft Excel spreadsheets and numbers.”

    According to Casner-Lotto, companies are expecting a greater degree of readiness from college graduates, especially if they are in senior positions that deal with other companies and representatives. Thus, applied skills are important to acquire while in college.

    “I’m keeping up,” Hong said. “But I realize there are a lot of things I don’t know how to deal with. I don’t know what my employers expect, but they have to expect to train employees if they’re entry-level. They can’t expect a polished worker right out of school.”

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