Sunday, September 1, 2013

What do employers want from graduates?

CC BY-NC-ND Some rights reserved by Nuwandalice
How important are qualifications in today's labour market? According to an article in the Chronicle of Higher EducationGiving Employers What They Don't Really Want, there's a mismatch between what educators believe and the answers given by industry representatives. Not surprisingly educators believe that employers look first at academic credentials whereas the employers clearly state that they're looking more at relevant skills, practical experience and personality. These are the findings of a new study from the Association of American Colleges and UniversitieIt Takes More than a Major: Employer Priorities for College Learning and Student Success. The employers questioned in the survey are looking for applicants who are innovative and analytic with high levels of critical thinking, problem-solving and communication skills. Furthermore they were positive to graduates with a broad range of knowledge and skills; a 21st century liberal education. Despite strong rumours to the contrary the generalist graduate is clearly not dead.

So employers are looking for evidence of your practical skills, preferably combining academic studies with hands-on workplace projects. Your collection of diplomas and certificates are of much less value than proven track record in concrete workplace projects and soft skills. This is nothing new of course and it's not always the candidate with the impressive certificates that gets the job - it's usually the one who shows the right communication skills in the interview and can offer the most relevant experience. An article in the Huffington Post, Why You Shouldn't Have 'Education' at the Top of Your Resume, confirms this trend that relevant skills and practical experience should come at the top of any resume.

"If you begin your resume with 'Education,' you sacrifice coveted space to, frankly, the least interesting part of your bio. Then, the employer looks up from your piece of paper and says, "OK, so what do you know how to do?"
We are entrenched in a skills-based economy, and what really counts are your abilities. It doesn't matter if you learned them at college, an internship, a full-time job or while babysitting your neighbor's kids.
Skills. Skills. Skills."

A degree is of course still important but what gets you employed is being able to show what you can do with it all. This is where the adoption of skills based badges, like the current Open Badges initiative, could well be a major breakthrough. Badges can be awarded for practical skills and workplace experience and provide credible credentials for informal learning. This can provide a complement to formal certification. Your degree shows a certain level of academic ability whereas your badge collection provides an employer with credible evidence of more practical skills.

1 comment:

  1. Though I'm not sure if employers really want employees who have too much creativity I would guarantee there are no academic jobs available without academic credentials. This is not an argument against liberal arts education but only that we have allowed the path to become narrow.