Why "naïve" graduates are trapped by work experience famine

20 February 2015 -

Naive grads

Employers complain that business-school students are short of workplace skills – yet fail to contribute to their personal development plan

Ben Walker

Employers have accused business school students of not having the personal development plans that would prepare them for professional life – despite failing to offer them the necessary work experience.

Nine in ten employers lament the lack of business experience among business-school graduates. Yet less than a quarter offer job placements or internships to business-school students, CMI’s report 21st Century Leaders found.

“It’s hard to reconcile the complaints of employers with the fact that they are reluctant to offer the opportunities that would solve the problem,” said Patrick Woodman, head of external affairs at CMI. “It has long been said that the workplace is a catch-22 for young people: they can’t get a job because they lack experience, but they can’t get the experience because they lack a job.” 

The research confirms that the catch-22 continues to bite – even among the highly qualified candidates that emerge from business schools with impressive and focused personal development plans.

More than half of employers surveyed admitted that they have difficulties recruiting high-calibre employees – because they lack skills. Only 17% of firms recruited new managers directly from the schools, while many preferred to use the institutions as training bodies for existing staff (41%).

Jane Harrington, vice-chair of the Association of Business Schools, called for more partnerships between employers and education bodies.

“The more effectively universities work with business and professional bodies that support business and growth, the greater opportunities we have for developing UK talent.”

Facts of personal development

80% of employers believe that graduates have unrealistic expectations of work

68% of employers think business courses focus too much on big business instead of the needs of smaller firms

75% of employers say graduates should undertake professional qualifications


"Steady Eddies" are winning popularity contest

The research also showed that businesses are recruiting gritty doers over risk-taking creatives.

When asked which three qualities they favour in new recruits, only 7% of business respondents said they were looing for risk-takers. A mere 14% were seeking entrepreneurs. And fewer than a quarter sought creative types.

Instead, the more workaday “can-do approach” (61%) and “resilience, grit and determination” (32%) were sought after.

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