Are Our Education Institutions Failing Your Business Practice?

A recent study in the UK commissioned by the Young Enterprise Charity highlighted the issue that there is an alarming mismatch between the skills that students graduate from university with and the skills that employers actually want. This poll of firms included employers such as KMPG, HSBC and Proctor and Gamble and the results suggested that there were widespread concerns amongst employers and the quality of potential graduate recruits. They study found that 1000s of young people lack the key ‘employability skills’ that employers are looking for. These skills were: ‘good grasp of English, punctuality and a ‘can do attitude’. Other skills that were mentioned as being in short supply were ‘commercial awareness’ and ‘interpersonal skills’.

Are Our Education Institutions Failing Your Business Practice?

It is easy to think that this may simply be an issue that is confined to the Northern Hemisphere. Is there are any evidence to suggest that the Southern Hemisphere and particularly Australia is experiencing this problem too? Are Australian employer’s feeling distinctly underwhelmed by the quality of graduates being put in front of them? If a recent Article in the Executive Style – Management section of the Sydney Morning Herald is anything to go by, then the answer is a resounding ‘yes’. It goes on to brand today’s graduates as the ‘Generation Text’ and reports that many experts are finding that this batch of new entrants to the workplace ‘are thin on the skills and etiquette required for interview'; they are too casual in their dress and attitude, making spelling and grammatical mistakes in their resumes, don’t check their documents, send cover letters addressed to the wrong person, and struggle to answer questions about past challenges or future goals.

The experiences of Australian and UK employers seem to mirror each other and seem to support the idea that some students are being produced for the work-place lacking the appropriate ‘soft skills’ for them to be effective in the work-place.

Much of the blame has been put at the door of universities since students are the end product of a university system that places too much emphasis on academics and not enough emphasis on real world skills that will help employees to function effectively in the work-place. But, is this criticism fair?

Consider that most universities provide a range of vocational degrees which include the possibility of sandwich placements in industry, which means that the most astute students do have the opportunities to develop more business focused skills during their degree. Also, a recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald highlights that most universities are very clear in putting out the message to students that they must develop soft-skills during the course of their degree so they are equipped to enter the business world. The articles goes on to underline that most universities have a careers centre which runs courses and expos aimed at preparing graduates for the work-place. In addition to this, most university websites provide a wealth of career information, relating to interview preparation and cover letting writing tips. So, arguably, the universities are providing the information and resources to help students to prepare for the work-place, so can educational institutions really be held responsible for the failure of students to make the most of these resources?
We are keen to hear from leaders within accountancy practice. How are you finding today’s graduate intake? Are they up to scratch? Do they have the necessary soft skills so that they can hit the ground running in your practice? Are the students failing to learn the appropriate skills or are the universities failing to teach them? We would love to hear your comments on this.