Lyall Mercer, managing director of Mercer PR, said he was astounded at the poor educational standards and industry preparedness of journalism and PR graduates who applied for a position with his company.
According to Mr Mercer, he asked 17 shortlisted graduates to complete a questionnaire on the broader industry as well as general news and current affairs topics, and was appalled at the responses he received.
Australia Post was listed as a major newspaper group, Alan Jones was named as the CEO of Qantas (for the record, that is actually Alan Joyce) and only five of the 17 graduates could correctly name the Reserve Bank of Australia as the bank that sets official interest rates.
Mr Mercer says less than half could name Australia’s two major newspaper media groups (News Corp Australia and Fairfax Media) and fewer than a quarter could name two Sydney newspapers (which include The Sydney Morning Herald and The Daily Telegraph).
“I did not speak to one graduate who in three years had attended a real press conference or stepped out of the classroom, which really makes you wonder what they are learning,” Mr Mercer says.
“While I understand that tertiary institutions represent the foundation of learning across many professions in the area of journalism and PR, these results are embarrassing.”
Mr Mercer says the sad reality is that the majority of these graduates even admitted that they didn’t learn much at university, despite paying tens of thousands of dollars for their degrees.
Barbara Gorogh, Mercer PR’s business manager, confirmed to My Business that the company did hire one of the graduates in question who stood out from the rest, but stipulated that “this graduate was not straight out of university but had some life experience and therefore displayed a better understanding of the media and current issues.”
Ms Gorogh also said that the problem was not with one particular university, as the graduates came from various Queensland-based universities, including University of Queensland, Bond University and Griffith University.
It is not the first time business owners have complained of the lack of workplace awareness that universities teach their students, with The Entourage founder and BRW Rich Lister Jack Delosa telling My Business in 2016 that tertiary education is ‘outdated and ineffective’.
However, Mr Mercer’s criticism of the university sector comes at the same time as businesses across the spectrum continue to grapple with the fallout of the axing of 457 visas, and the tighter controls that will be put on future temporary skilled worker immigration going forward.
While the legislation has been aimed at improving the employment options for Australian workers, businesses – especially resource-strapped SMEs – have been left scratching their heads at how they can take on such poorly educated and trained Australians in lieu of highly skilled foreign workers.