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  • Are College Graduates “Career Ready”?

    February 19, 2018 | By NACE Staff

    New college graduates on the job.

    TAGS: competencies, trends and predictions, student attitudes, surveys, spotlight, students

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    When it comes to rating the “career readiness” of college graduates, there are differences in perception—in some cases, very marked ones—between students entering the job market and the employers that hire them.  

    In terms of the eight competencies that NACE has identified as constituting “career readiness,” employers tend to rate the proficiency of recent college graduates lower than do the students themselves. (See Figure 1.) This can be problematic because it suggests that employers see skills gaps in key areas where college students don’t believe gaps exist.

    Employers and graduating seniors differed greatly when it came to rating proficiency in competencies such as professionalism/work ethic, oral/written communications, and leadership as students considered themselves much more proficient than did employers. The gap between the two groups was greatest when it came to students’ professionalism and work ethic; nearly 90 percent of students considered themselves proficient in this area, but less than half of employers agreed.

    Ironically, the only competency that employers rated the proficiency of college graduates higher than did graduating seniors is digital technology. Employers also believe new hires are hitting the mark on teamwork; more than three-quarters rated new graduates as proficient in this competency. Students agree, with 85 percent considering themselves proficient in teamwork.

    Data for the Job Outlook 2018 survey were collected from August 9, 2017, through October 2, 2017. A total of 201 surveys were returned—a 20.5 percent response rate. The Job Outlook 2018 report is available to members through MyNACE; nonmembers can purchase the report through the NACE store.

    NACE’s Class of 2017 Student Survey was conducted from February 15 to April 30, 2017; more than 21,000 students at colleges and universities nationwide took part, including 4,200 graduating seniors. Participating schools will find a complimentary copy of the report in MyNACE > Research Reports; an executive summary is available on NACEWeb.

    Figure 1: Employer vs. Student Perception of Proficiency in Career Readiness Competencies, by Percentage of Respondents

    Competency % of Employers That Rated Recent Grads Proficient* % of Students Who Considered Themselves Proficient**
    Professionalism/Work Ethic 42.5% 89.4%
    Oral/Written Communications 41.6% 79.4%
    Critical Thinking/Problem Solving 55.8% 79.9%
    Teamwork/Collaboration 77.0% 85.1%
    Leadership 33.0% 70.5%
    Digital Technology 65.8% 59.9%
    Career Management 17.3% 40.9%
    Global/Intercultural Fluency 20.7% 34.9%
    Source: Job Outlook 2018 (N=201 employing organizations) and The Class of 2017 Student Survey Report (N=4,213 graduating seniors), National Association of Colleges and Employers

    *The percentages corresponding to “rated proficient” represent, among all responding employers, the percentage who, on a five-point scale, rated recent graduates either “very” (4) or “extremely” (5) proficient in the respective competency.

    **The percentages corresponding to "considered proficient" represent, among all graduating seniors from the Class of 2017, the percentage who, on a five-point scale, considered himself/herself either "very" (4) or "extremely" (5) proficient in the respective competency.