Employers’ perception

Employers’ perception of graduate employability

1) Method of Investigation

  • The survey covered all 27 EU Member States, as well as Norway, Iceland, Croatia and Turkey.

  • Companies included in this study had recruited higher education graduates in the past five years and/or were planning to recruit such graduates in the next five years.

  • The targeted number of interviews varied depending on the size of the respective country.

  • Overall, 7,036 companies were interviewed, between 30 August and 7 September 2010, using a fixed-line telephone methodology.

  • Eligible respondents were chief human resource officers or chief executive officers.

  • Of the companies surveyed, about three-quarters (76%) were medium-sized companies (with between 50 and 249 employees) and the rest (24%) were large companies with 250 employees or more.

2) Objectives

This Flash Eurobarometer “Employers’ perception of graduate employability” (No 304)  was carried out in order to provide insights into the needs and perceptions of graduate recruiters by monitoring the opinions of staff in companies throughout Europe with at least 50 employees across a range of business sectors.

3) Findings

Skills and capabilities: importance and satisfaction

  • Almost all skills and capabilities listed in the survey – such as the ability to work in a team or computer literacy – were considered to be very or rather important when recruiting higher education graduates. In total, between 88% and 98% of respondents ranked these skills as “very” or “rather important”.

  • In terms of rating certain skills and capabilities as being “very important”, graduate recruiters were most likely to highlight the importance of team-working (67%), by sector-specific skills, communication skills, computer literacy, being able to adapt to new situations, first-class ability in reading/writing, and analytical and problem-solving skills (all 58%-62%). Graduate employers were less likely to highlight the importance of foreign language skills: 33% rated these skills as “very important” and 34% as “rather important”. Foreign languages skills, however, were the only skills that were ranked higher as a requirement for future graduates.

  • All other skills and capabilities were ranked similarly when comparing graduate recruiters’ views about the importance of various skills and capabilities required by today’s employees and those required by future higher education graduates (5 to 10 years from now).

  • A large majority (89%) of employers – who had recruited higher education graduates in the past five years – agreed that these graduates had the skills required to work in their company. The proportion of employers who agreed with this proposition ranged from 65% in Lithuania to 98% in Sweden. Respondents in Malta, however, were the most likely to strongly agree with this statement (69%).

  • A large majority of employers appeared to be at least rather satisfied when evaluating the skills and capabilities of the higher education graduates that their company had hired in the past three to five years. The overall satisfaction levels (i.e. the sum of “very satisfied” and “rather satisfied” responses) ranged from 80% for decision-making skills to 91% for computer skills. Graduate employers’ satisfaction with their employees’ foreign language capabilities was lower as just two-thirds (67%) said they were satisfied.

Importance of graduates’ educational establishment

  • Graduate recruiters in medium-sized companies and those in the private sector were more likely to answer that graduates with bachelor’s degrees would best match the skill requirements in their company. Graduate recruiters in large companies and those in the public sector, on the other hand, more frequently said that graduates with master’s degrees would be a better fit.

  • Almost 9 in 10 graduate recruiters agreed that work experience was a crucial asset for new recruits (87% rather or strongly agreed). They did not agree, however, that it was very important that new recruits had studied or worked abroad before joining their company (70% or more rather or strongly disagreed).

  • Graduate recruiters with international contacts were more likely to value international mobility – i.e. they more frequently agreed that it was very important for graduates to have studied or worked abroad before joining their company. Employers in the industry sector were also more likely to agree that it was very important for new recruits to have studied or worked abroad.

  • Graduate employers in Cyprus and Turkey were the most likely to highlight the importance of having studied, or having had a work-placement, abroad. For example, 81% of respondents in Cyprus and 65% of those in Turkey agreed that it was very important that new recruits had studied abroad; in comparison, this view was shared by less than a tenth of respondents in the UK, Sweden, Norway, Croatia and Hungary (6%-9%).

  • When asked to choose one action that higher education institutions should take to improve the employability of their graduates, 36% of respondents said that sector-specific work-placements should be included as an integral part of study programmes. Including practical experience in such programmes was selected by 30% of graduate employers and 18% said there would be most benefit if courses were more relevant to employers’ needs.

Training activities for graduate employees

  • A third (34%) of graduate employers reported that more than 50% of their employees with higher education degrees had received training to update their skills in the past two years. The proportion who said that less than 10% had received such training was 33%.

  • More than 6 in 10 employers in Austria (63%), and about half of those in Iceland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia (50%-55%) answered that more than half of their graduate employees had received training in the past two years; this proportion was the lowest in Romania (11%) and Bulgaria (17%).

  • A large majority (83%) of respondents said that their employees with higher education degrees had participated in training and development programmes organised at their workplace; 55% mentioned training offered by continuing education institutions. The proportion of employers mentioning training offered in-house ranged from 60% in Bulgaria to 94% in Ireland, Austria and Finland.

  • Other training activities listed in the survey were mentioned by less than half of graduate employers; for example, 41% said that their employees with higher education degrees had participated in short courses offered by universities and other higher education institutions and 30% mentioned part-time study programmes at such institutions.

  • Distance learning programmes were the least frequently mentioned type of training (among those listed in the survey) in more than half of the countries surveyed; the proportion of employers mentioning this type of training ranged from 13% in Slovakia to 62% in Estonia.

Cooperation with higher education institutions

  • Somewhat more than a tenth of graduate employers said they cooperated with higher education institutions in discussing curriculum design and study programmes; 6% said they very frequently cooperated, 8% said this had happened rather frequently. Cooperating with higher education institutions in the recruitment of their graduates, on the other hand, appeared to happen more frequently.

  • Across almost all countries surveyed, less than a quarter of respondents said they very or rather frequently cooperated with higher education institutions to discuss curriculum design and study programmes. In Malta and Turkey, on the other hand, slightly more than a quarter of graduate employers said they very or rather frequently had such cooperation (26%-27%).

  • Graduate employers in the industry sector and those in the sectors of public and non-public services were more likely to have cooperated with higher education institutions in the design of curricula and study programmes (13%-18% vs. 9% in the other sectors).

  • The proportion of graduate employers who thought it would be very or rather important to cooperate with higher education institutions in the design of curricula and study programmes ranged from roughly a third in the Czech Republic, Hungary and France (30%-35%) to about two-thirds in Turkey, Slovenia and Portugal (65%-67%).

  • Roughly one in two (52%) graduate employers said that one of the best ways of cooperating with higher education institutions on recruitment was their participation in internship programmes and about a third (32%) selected direct recruitment from schools.

About the Author: Maurizio

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