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Are female graduates ‘business ready’? The importance of closing the technical skills gap

Happy female graduates at their graduation-ceremony

ARTICLE SUMMARY

Becs Roycroft, VP of Global Emerging Talent at Wiley Edge, explores the technical skills missing in graduates entering the job market. Insights from the 2023 Diversity in Tech report highlight the challenges and propose solutions for a smoother transition from university to business

Universities play a hugely important role in students’ development, from teaching academic theory to providing life experience.

They foster a love for learning that individuals go on to develop beyond education. However, when graduates progress into the world of work, many lack on-the-job experience and haven’t yet fully developed the practical skills to thrive.

In this article, Becs Roycroft, Vice President of Global Emerging Talent and Client Operations at Wiley Edge, looks at the technical skills that graduates are missing when they enter the job market and how this skills gap can be bridged.

Of the businesses surveyed for our 2023 Diversity in Tech report, 45% stated that candidates for entry-level positions, despite holding a relevant degree, often lack core technical skills for the job.

26% of businesses added that candidates lack soft skills and 42% of businesses reported a scarcity of candidates with the right formal qualifications.

The findings suggest that many graduates are not ‘business ready’ after university. They often need further support to develop job-specific technical skills, as well as career-vital soft skills which help them understand the corporate world and thrive. So how can we bridge this skills gap to ensure entry-level employees reach their full potential?

The university/employer debate

The reality is universities can’t be expected to adapt at speed and match courses to the continually evolving needs of each specific industry. Instead, businesses have a responsibility to ensure graduates are fully equipped to thrive in post. Therefore, they should factor in the cost of extra training for entry-level talent to develop in-demand skills.

This is particularly important in tech, where employers’ needs develop at such an incredible pace and businesses are in the midst of a digital transformation. Pioneering technology is now being integrated into every area of organisations at scale to improve workflows, reduce costs and improve customer experience. Digital transformation is a long-term process which must be led by those trained in the latest software and programming.

Businesses must nurture graduate talent and help them hone their skills. This responsibility also extends to upskilling existing staff to ensure the business embraces the latest tech wholeheartedly to stay ahead of the curve and maintain a competitive edge.

Graduates also have the responsibility of ensuring they are doing all they can to appeal to hiring businesses in a busy job market. This may be through undertaking extra formal training, pursuing independent training or gaining on-the-job work experience through internships.

Taking the innovative route

When it comes to bridging the skills gap, innovative workforce strategies also play a key role.

Looking beyond simply hiring new staff, many businesses are investing in graduates who have undergone extra training to get them up to speed with relevant workplace skills. For example, through our Hire Train Deploy model, graduates receive training in areas such as DevOps, software development, or cyber security. Through the training, entry-level talent also develops power skills to help them succeed from day one at one of our client organisations. These initiatives also take the burden off businesses to provide training in-house and reduce the risks involved with hiring new talent.

While there has been prominent criticism of Gen Z, with some suggesting there is entitlement with regards to the job market, this isn’t fair. The job market is busy, employers’ need for tech has grown, and Gen Z has navigated unprecedented obstacles in the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis in their hunt for their first role.

What is needed now is a collective understanding that there is a technical skills gap between university and the world of work, and all must work together to ensure it is filled effectively.

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