The price of a college degree continues to creep higher across the country. But has the value of that degree kept pace? Students expect their investment in college to pay off in the form of meaningful employment. However, according to new data, both recent grads and HR managers believe that the absence of durable skills–including people skills–training in higher education offers an opportunity for colleges and universities to partner with students and employers in closing a critical skills gap.
A new report from Mursion, From Skill to Instinct: How Higher Education Can Bridge the Gap Between Classroom and Career, found that while the hard, technical skills ingrained throughout traditional academia are critical to career success, these skills may not be enough to stand out in a highly competitive job market.
In fact, the data revealed that 44 percent of HR professionals would hire an applicant with strong durable skills, such as superior people skills, over an applicant with superior hard skills.
The report illustrates how this new skills gap is widening and reveals the implications it may have for the future if no formal action is taken. The data highlights an opportunity for higher education institutions to step in and not only increase the value of their offering, but to help mold a future workforce with the social instincts to collaborate and work together successfully.
Main highlights from the data include:
While the general importance of people skills in the workplace is uncontested, expectations have diverged. Hiring and HR managers are looking for high levels of collaboration, while recent graduates are focused on individual skills:
- 65 percent of HR professionals believe teamwork and collaboration are the most foundational people skills–and 40 percent believe these skills are the most lacking in new hires
- Only 37 percent of recent graduates believe they need to develop better teamwork skills, instead putting their focus on presenting (41 percent) and negotiation (40 percent)
The pandemic and sequential shift to remote work are only widening this new skills gap:
- Before the pandemic, HR professionals rated the people skills of existing employees as average or below average–close to half (47 percent) believe that the pandemic has made these skills even worse
- Recent graduates reported missing out on traditional in-person facilities or events that may have acted as a launching pad for their careers
“It may seem natural to assume that recent college graduates and other emerging professionals will ultimately learn how to navigate challenging office personality types and advance their careers,” said Mark Atkinson, CEO and co-founder of Mursion. “But we can’t afford to assume that all recent graduates are autodidacts when it comes to foundational human skills. To learn any new skill and make it instinctual, people need practice, guidance and reflection. They need the opportunity to fail in a psychologically safe space so they can pinpoint their mistakes and try again until mastery is achieved.”
Material from a press release was used in this report.
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