Higher education has conventionally focused on providing quality education for its students. However, modern students are increasingly attending higher education, not for scholarly pursuits, but to increase their value in an intensely competitive job market.
Upon graduating, they expect their investment in college to pay off in the form of meaningful employment. But has the value of their college degree kept pace? While the cost of education has continued to increase, many students feel those degrees aren’t leading to the jobs they want. Employers are looking for more than technical skills from today’s prospective employees, leading to a perception of decreased return from the investment in a degree.
So how do higher education institutions bridge this gap between the classroom and the careers of their students? According to a recent report, both recent graduates and HR professionals believe that the absence of “people” or “soft” skills training in higher education indicates an opportunity for colleges and universities to partner with students and employers in closing a critical skills gap.
The report – From Skill to Instinct: How higher education can bridge the gap between classroom and career – released by Mursion, found that while the hard and 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 May 2021, Mursion, an immersive VR training platform for essential workplace skills, conducted a dual survey of more than 400 recent college graduates and more than 425 HR professionals to explore the importance of people skills in the workplace and discover how HR and emerging professionals want to bridge this gap. Interestingly, the study found the following:
- 44% of HR professionals would hire an applicant with superior people skills over an applicant with superior hard skills.
- 61% of recent graduates feel somewhat or wholly unprepared for their careers.
- 93% of recent graduates and 74% of HR professionals believe that higher education should formalize opportunities to practice people skills.
Mursion’s report further revealed the following findings:
- 65% of HR professionals believe teamwork and collaboration are the most foundational people skills – and 40% believe these skills are the most lacking in new hires.
- Only 37% of recent graduates believe they need to develop better teamwork skills, instead, putting their focus on presenting (41%) and negotiation (40%).
According to the report, the pandemic has widened this new skills gap. Before the pandemic, HR professionals rated the people skills of existing employees as average or below average, but the study found that close to half (47%) believe the pandemic has made these skills even worse.
Mursion’s report shows how this new skills gap is widening and reveals its implications for the future if no formal action is taken. The data also illuminates 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.