Students, recruiters and the job market

Recruiters and hiring managers are confident that current college students have the skills needed to succeed, but they need to master “soft skills” and obtain additional credentials that go beyond traditional degrees, according to a new survey.

The results of the survey released Monday by Ellucian also indicate that college students of Generation Z feel less prepared for the workforce than current college students who are older. Most students plan to continue their education within their field, meaning that the workforce will become increasingly specialized.

“The message from this survey is clear: students want and need to become lifelong learners, and in response, institutions must expand opportunities for perpetual learning,” Katie Lynch-Holmes, Ellucian’s director of global enablement, said in a press release. “Colleges and universities will continue to offer traditional degrees, but should also incorporate or expand upon certifications, credentials and other micro-learning opportunities aligned with local industry needs.”

The survey, conducted in the U.S. by Wakefield Research, queried 500 students ages 18 to 45 currently enrolled in a two- or four-year college or credential program, and 500 recruiters and hiring managers who fill salaried positions.

Ready for work, sort of

Students are enrolling in college to improve their career prospects, but they wonder if they’re learning skills that will prepare them for the workforce, according to the survey. About 36 percent of Generation Z (ages 18-21) students feel very prepared for the workforce, compared to 49 percent of millennial students (ages 22-37) and 68 percent of Generation X students (ages 38-53).

While recruiters largely agree that job candidates come prepared, soft skills — such as communication, critical thinking and problem solving — are sought by both students and recruiters alike and are increasingly recognized as critical to career success. According to the survey, 62 percent of recruiters are very confident that job candidates have the skills to succeed, but 40 percent of them find that communication skills are lacking in job candidates. And 30 percent of recruiters indicate that job candidates lack critical-thinking skills.

More than degrees

Both students and recruiters overwhelmingly agree that credentials, in addition to traditional degrees, are now essential to students’ job prospects. About 48 percent of executive recruiters participating in the survey said further education is needed more than once a year to stay relevant in the workplace.

The survey also shows that while recruiters believe job candidates with a college degree have more skills than those without one, only one-third of organizations require a degree for entry-level positions, and one-quarter accept credentials in place of degrees.

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