40% of business leaders believe graduates aren’t prepared to work. Are they right?

The online degree ranking service surveyed over 1,200 business leaders in July and found that 40% believe recent college graduates are ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ unprepared for the workforce, and nearly half (46%) say educators are at fault.

Four out of 10 students from your graduating class will be fighting an uphill battle in the employment search as their next interviewer might already be convinced that they’re unfit for the job—and they’re putting the blame on educators, according to a new survey from Intelligent.

The online degree ranking service surveyed more than 1,200 business leaders in July and found that 40% believe recent college graduates are “very” or “somewhat” unprepared for the workforce, and nearly half (46%) say educators are at fault. Thus, of all surveyed, about a fifth believe educators negatively impact graduates’ workforce preparedness.

According to business leaders who believe they’re unprepared, the biggest liabilities among the next cohort of college-educated employees are their lack of work ethic, communication skills, technological skills and sense of entitlement. Additionally, 87% of this group avoids hiring recent college graduates either sometimes, most of the time or always.

Aside from educators being at fault, 62% of those against hiring college graduates blamed culture, 50% blamed parents and 48% blamed the pandemic.

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In defense of educators

A persuasive majority (88%) of those against hiring recent college graduates say that student cohorts from the last three years are less prepared for the workforce than years prior. These degree earners all shared the same challenge: They were forced online due to the pandemic.

Dr. Diane Gayeski, professor of Strategic Communication at Ithaca College and principal of Gayeski Analytics, explains how students’ adaptation to remote schooling affected their “people skills,” creating a divide between how younger generations tackle work compared to their bosses. The pandemic solidified the digital transformation and transition to hybrid work that had already begun growing its roots long before 2020, he said.

“Recent college grads don’t communicate in the way that their 50-year-old executives do, but they are effective in collaborating and getting things done using their own tools of social media, texting and applications like Slack and Google Docs,” Dr. Gayeski said.

Similarly, the sense of entitlement that business leaders cited as an employee liability might stem from employees’ refusal to comply with what older generations are used to, including female harassment and poor work-life balance.

“The people who think that Gen-Z is ‘soft’ and doesn’t have a good work ethic should consider the groups leaving the workforce in droves—nurses, restaurant workers and teachers who are mostly mid-career but who are just burned out,” Dr. Gayeski said.

Instead of blaming educators, Dr. Gayeski recommends that business leaders pay attention to the incoming workforce’s style and values to maximize their potential of recruiting “smart young professionals” who bring fresh new perspectives.

Who are these business leaders?

Of the 1,243 business leaders surveyed, Intelligent chose individuals aged 30 to 60 years old; working in an organization with more than 10 employees; employed for wages; earning a household income of more than $75,000 and working in an organizational role, such as C-Level executive, HR manager, director, president, owner/partner or senior management.

Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel is a UB staff writer and Florida Gator alumnus. A graduate in journalism and communications, his beats have ranged from Gainesville's city development, music scene, and regional little league sports divisions. He has triple citizenship from the U.S., Ecuador, and Brazil.

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