Five out of six business leaders have something other than an overwhelmingly positive experience when hiring university graduates, suggesting a disconnect between graduate aptitude and SME expectations.
Following recent debate about the employability of university graduates, My Business asked readers to rate their experience in hiring graduates.
Business leaders were asked to rate their experience with overwhelmingly positive, somewhat positive, somewhat negative, overwhelmingly negative or unsure.
The majority of respondents rated their experience as somewhat positive, a sentiment shared by just over a third (33.8 per cent) of all respondents.
The second most common response was overwhelmingly negative (23 per cent), followed by somewhat negative (21.6 per cent).
Just 13.5 per cent rated their experience of hiring graduates as overwhelmingly positive.
Interestingly, the divide between those that felt the experience had been positive and negative was almost a dead heat.
Some 47.3 per cent of respondents rated their experience as somewhat or overwhelmingly positive, compared with 44.6 per cent who had a somewhat or overwhelmingly negative experience.
The remaining 8.1 per cent were unsure.
While by no means a large-scale or scientific study, the poll results demonstrate a clear disconnect between what many small and medium-sized businesses are expecting when taking on new entrants to the workforce, and the overall skills, attitude and aptitude that university leavers actually possess.
As previously reported, one university lecturer said it is the poor attitude of the graduates themselves, rather than the skills and competencies taught in universities, which are causing frustration among some employers.
However, Universities Australia chief executive Belinda Robinson defends the overall level of satisfaction that employers have with university graduates, and points to larger studies which have suggested more broad-based support for graduate skills and competencies.
“Certainly we know from the very large national surveys undertaken by government that there is very strong employer satisfaction overall in Australia with the skills of the graduates they hire,” she tells My Business.
“The largest ever nationwide survey of this kind – which sought the views of more than 3,000 direct supervisors of graduates in 2016 – found 84 per cent satisfaction with the skills of the university graduates they hired.”
The same study, conducted by Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching (QILT), found that employer satisfaction for graduate foundational skills – general literacy, numeracy and communications skills – sat at 92 per cent, and 84 per cent for graduates’ ability to perform and innovate in the workplace.
Ms Robinson adds that universities are continually seeking to learn from industry and employer feedback to improve their offering, in order to meet changing marketplace needs.
“Ultimately it’s in everyone interests – the students, employers and universities – that Australian graduates emerge from their university education with the strongest possible proficiency, skills and experience,” she says.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.