Recent College Grads Got Skills, No Jobs

By Theresa Minton-Eversole Aug 9, 2012

Lack of jobs, not qualifications, is the top reason why recent college graduates and post-graduates are unemployed, according to a survey released in July by the Society for Human Resource Management.

While employers do notice that recent college undergraduates lack—and must improve—common basic and applied skills, such is unlikely to be the reason why they are unemployed, based on data from SHRM’s The Hiring of 2012 University/ College Undergraduates and Postgraduates survey.

The survey includes responses from 378 randomly selected HR professionals from SHRM’s membership. Nearly half (47 percent) of organizations have hired one or more recent undergraduates seeking employment, up from 41 percent in 2011 and 30 percent in 2010. Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of jobs filled at the time of the 2012 survey were for full-time positions, while 19 percent were temporary or contract positions; 15 percent were part-time positions.

Nearly one-third (31 percent) have hired recent post-graduate job seekers, up from 26 percent in 2011, and 20 percent in 2010. The majority of the post-graduate job offers—83 percent—were for full-time positions. Seven percent were for temporary and contract work. Another 7 percent were for part-time positions.

Survey data released in May 2012 by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) also showed that the college Class of 2012 has fared better in the job market than their peers who graduated in 2011. Nearly 48,000 college students nationwide—including nearly 16,000 seniors at the bachelor’s degree level—took part in the survey.Approximately one-quarter (25.5 percent) of the Class of 2012 that applied for a job already has one in hand, according to results of NACE’s 2012 Student Survey. That’s up slightly from 2011 survey data that showed 24 percent of 2011 graduates who had applied for and accepted a job. Graduates most likely to receive a job offer were those earning degrees in accounting, engineering, computer science, economics and business administration, according to NACE.

But the SHRM survey also showed that the 53 percent of organizations that have not yet hired 2012 undergraduates and post-graduates are unlikely to hire them at all this year. Most employers (75 percent) have no current openings for recent graduates, while 8 percent reported hiring freezes.

Eighteen percent indicate recent graduates are underqualified for open positions, while 17 percent indicate such graduates are overqualified for available positions.

What do graduates today bring to the job? Many respondents said they are likely to be savvy in technology, noted Mark Schmit, vice president of research at SHRM. “Still, they must improve basic skills/ knowledge, such as English grammar and spelling, and applied skills, such as critical thinking, to best compete for jobs and transition into the ones they land,” he added.

A breakdown of responses showed that among undergraduates:

  • 45 percent lack English grammar and spelling skills.
  • 41 percent lack written communications skills.
  • 38 percent lack critical thinking/problem-solving skills.
  • 30 percent lack oral communication skills.
  • 17 percent lack skills in mathematics.
  • 12 percent lack English-speaking skills.

Unsurprisingly, respondents indicated that jobs calling for highly skilled technical skills, scientists, engineers, and managers and executives continue to be the most difficult for which to recruit.

Theresa Minton-Eversole is an online editor/manager for SHRM.


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