Thousands of graduates will soon take their first steps into the world of work in New Zealand, but a large number lack the necessary skills and experience employers want.
According to recruiting experts Hays, many of today’s graduates may be forced to take on non-graduate roles.
“Year after year I listen to concerned employers who are worried that each fresh wave of graduates simply does not possess the skills required to excel in the modern world of work, or even get their foot in the door,” Hays CEO, Alistair Cox, said.
“They’ve spent at least three years racking up debt to study a course that will not help them find a relevant role.”
With skills shortages already evident, as recently identified by the Hays Global Skills Index, Cox believes failing to address the skills of those leaving education will only exacerbate the situation.
Another issue is a lack of graduates who gain any practical work experience during their study.
“While employers often look for technical or vocational knowledge first, many students leave university or higher education without any relevant experience because many courses are not geared toward this,” Cox said.
“Yet employers value graduates with experience. Even a few weeks spent in the industry or sector they ultimately wish to enter puts graduates ahead of other candidates without such experience.”
As for a possible solution, Cox said educational institutes, employers, governments and graduates all have a part to play.
“Better careers advice needs to be provided within educational institutes so that students can consider all options before making an informed decision on their future,” Cox added.
“Our political leaders should encourage universities to focus on providing the skills that will be vital to driving employment, businesses and the economy.”
Looking ahead, Cox said another potential solution is to make the high-employability courses and institutions free or cheaper, such as those offering training in STEM-related jobs - this would also incentivise younger people into taking such courses.
For Cox, businesses can do more to ensure educational institutes are producing the skills needed.
“Business leaders should be approaching top colleges and universities, asking how they can help prepare the future workforce and informing them which areas their business is struggling to recruit in,” he added.
Cox also believes it’s also the responsibility of young people to focus on obtaining a skills set that is relevant to the world of work and that will benefit them.
“We need to be encouraging our young people to consider the future jobs market before choosing what to study,” he added.
Going forward, Cox believes New Zealand must “reduce the stigma” around apprenticeships so that school leavers consider this training option alongside university courses.
“Gaining technical knowledge and experience in an area of candidate demand is important for a secure long-term career, and this can be achieved through an apprenticeship just as it can through a degree or post-graduate qualification,” Hays New Zealand managing director, Jason Walker, added.
“Apprenticeships are available in a broad range of industries and job functions and should be considered equally with other training options when people consider their further education and future career options.
“After all, we need to equip people with the skills employers require so they can not only enter but succeed in the world of work.”