Student and Graduate Publishing

The Importance of Employability Skills

Thursday, 16 January 2014 13:06

By Nihad Ćehić

 - In 2012 the CBI released an employer survey of 542 employers. The survey revealed that 81% of employers valued employability skills as the most important factor when recruiting graduates – over and above other factors such as degree subject (70%) or class (46%). Step into your University Careers Office and you will be sure to see lots of information on employability skills and their importance. The question is how many students do step into their University Careers office? And out of those that do, how many leave with a view to increasing their employability skills?

There are reasons for my questions. A challenge for students is that different employers look for different sets of employability skills. If you are not sure what career you want to apply for, how can you know what skills to target? It can also be difficult to think about employability skills at university as there is just so much to do. How can students find time in their busy schedules? Despite these challenges there are ways for students to enjoy their time at university while developing skills in the process. In fact, one could argue that the process of developing skills is the most enjoyable part of university.

So you have no idea what you want to do after university?

Although each job application should be tailored to suit each employer many employability skills are universally desirable.

Some of the most commonly requested skills are:
• Communication and interpersonal skills (written and verbal)
• Team working
• Problem solving
• Initiative and self-motivation
• Planning and organisational skills
• Drive
• Numeracy
• Ability to learn and adapt
• Time Management

Some employability skills - like ‘problem solving’ - can usually be communicated effectively to prospective employers through examples from your degree. Take this example:
 “My degree requires me to solve advanced mathematical equations on a regular basis. By thinking logically, when approaching even the most advanced mathematical problems, I can solve them by breaking each equation down into smaller steps. This approach resulted with me achieving 82% on my most recent examination on Linear Algebra.”

However, the difficulty many undergraduates face when they begin to look for work is the saturation of the job market. With so many students graduating, recruiters are flooded with similar examples of graduates expressing skills through their degree. Only applications which specifically address what each recruiter is looking for and show skills being developed and demonstrated from a diverse pool of activities will have the best chance of being successful. The devil – or in this case ‘the angel’ – is in the detail.
How can you find time to develop skills from a range of activities when you have to balance your studying time, contact time and social life? It can be very difficult. However, with many employers actively looking for skills such as ‘time management’ such undertakings are a prerequisite for achieving career options.

Many students develop fantastic skills but can struggle to identify or communicate them in an application effectively. There are 4 areas where students can use