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MEMO/10/638

Brussels, 2 December 2010

Eurobarometer survey: Employers' perception of graduate employability

Skills and capabilities: importance and satisfaction

Almost all skills and capabilities listed in the survey were considered to be very or rather important when recruiting higher education graduates. In the list of the highly ranked skills, team working skills (67%) are followed by sector-specific skills, communication skills, computer skills, being able to adapt to new situations, ability in reading/writing and analytical and problem-solving skills. Between 58% and 67% of respondents consider these skills as very important for new recruits.

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Although graduate employers were less likely to highlight the importance of foreign language skills with regard to current recruits (33% rated these skills as “very important” and 34% as “rather important”), 30% said that foreign language skills are the most important skills with regard to the future. This means that they were ranked as a higher requirement for future graduates than the ability to adapt to new situations (27%) and planning and organisational skills (23%). This was most strongly indicated by companies with considerable day-to-day international dealings. 48% said that foreign language skills would be the most important skills with regard to the future.

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Employers ranked skills and capabilities similarly when asked about the importance of various skills and capabilities and their general satisfaction with employees' skills and capabilities. A large majority (89%) of employers – who had recruited university graduates in the past five years – agreed that these graduates had the skills required to work in their company. The overall satisfaction levels ranged from 80% for decision-making skills to 91% for computer skills.

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Skills and capabilities for future graduates

The highest number of employers selected basic capabilities, such as having good numeracy, literacy and computer skills, as the most important for future higher education graduates.

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Recruiters from the industry sector were more likely to highlight the importance of foreign language skills in the future than employers in other fields, for example in the public sector (40% versus 15% in the public sector). As was expected, a higher proportion of graduate recruiters with international contacts indicated that foreign language skills are very important when recruiting higher education graduates (48% for those with more than half of the operations involving dealing with people in or from other cultures, compared to 18% of those with no international contacts).

Importance of graduates' educational establishment

More than half of the employers asked (55%) think that graduates with bachelor's degrees best match the skill requirements in their company. While 35% considered a master's degree a best fit, only 3% thought that graduates with PhD degree would best fit the skill requirements in their company. More than 9 out of 10 graduate recruiters said when asked that they knew exactly what the difference was between bachelor's and master's degrees. These results indicate strongly that the new structure of the higher education system introduced by the Bologna Process is recognised by European employers.

Work experience is a crucial asset for new recruits

Besides the set of skills, work experience of graduates was highly important for recruiters. In total, 87% of graduate recruiters agreed with the statement that work experience is a crucial asset for new recruits. Consequently employers most frequently selected sector-specific work placements as an integral part of study programme when asked how universities could improve the employability of their graduates. Including practical experience in courses was the second most selected choice. 66% of respondents selected one of these two choices.

Work placements and studying abroad was highly valued by about one quarter to one fifth of the employers: while 29% of respondents "strongly agreed" or "rather agreed" that it was very important that graduate recruits had done an internship abroad, 24% said this with regard to studying abroad. Employers in the industry sector in particular appreciate international work experience. 38% of them strongly agreed or rather agreed that it was very important that new recruits had completed an internship abroad. Study experience abroad was especially valued by graduate recruiters with international contacts. Around one third (32%) of employers with more than 50% of international day-to-day contacts strongly or rather agreed that having studied abroad was very important for graduate recruits.

Although the importance of work experience in general (regardless whether it was gained abroad or in the home country) was rated higher by the majority of recruiters in the sample it has nevertheless to be taken into account that learning mobility has the potential to considerably enhance particular skills valued by employers (e.g. team working skills, communication skills, ability to adapt to new situations) as well as skills regarded more important in the future (foreign language skills).

Cooperation with universities

Graduate recruiters were divided on the importance of cooperation with higher education institutions in the design of curricula and study programmes. When asked how often this cooperation took place, only 14% of companies said they very or rather frequently cooperated with universities on curriculum design and study programmes. Almost 6 out of 10 graduate recruiters said they had never cooperated with universities in this regard. Cooperation happened, however, more frequently for recruitment of university graduates. When asked about the best way to cooperate with universities, employers showed a strong preference for traineeship programmes (52%) followed by direct recruitment from universities (32%).

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More than a quarter of employers also recruit people from other European countries

More than a quarter (27%) of respondents had recruited higher education graduates from other European countries and about a fifth (18%) had recruited graduates from countries outside Europe.

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A large proportion (41%) of respondents said they have recruited graduates from other countries because they wanted to hire the very best talent available, while 15% said this was because graduates from other countries had a strong work ethic. Somewhat more than a quarter (27%) of respondents recruited higher education graduates from other countries because they needed to have an international workforce.

Method of the survey and sample

This Flash Eurobarometer “Employers’ perception of graduate employability” (No 304) provides insights into the needs and perceptions of graduate recruiters through monitoring the opinions of senior staff in companies with at least 50 employees and across a range of business sectors, public and non-public. The survey covers all 27 EU Member States, as well as Norway, Iceland, Croatia and Turkey. Companies included in this study had recruited higher education graduates in the past five years and/or were planning to recruit such graduates in the next five years. Overall, 7036 companies were interviewed, between 30 August and 7 September 2010.

Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED

Approximately two-thirds (68%) of employers participating in the survey have recruited higher education graduates in the past five years and are planning to recruit such graduates in the next five years. More than one third (35%) of the respondents estimated that more than a fifth of their employees were that type of graduate. Although companies included in this study recruited such graduates from a variety of educational fields, the areas most frequently mentioned are engineering and business or economic studies (54-55% of companies). The largest share of companies included in the survey were active in the industry sector followed by the non-public and public services. More than 4 out of 10 (42%) respondents estimated that at least 10% of their day-to-day operations involved dealing with people in or from other countries, whereas 26% said they did not deal with people abroad.

To know more:

Eurobarometer survey on employers' perception of graduate employability


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