Hired and Not Necessarily Prepared

HR officials give colleges a mixed report card on getting students ready for post-graduation jobs.
October 3, 2006

Writing skills earned poor grades, applying technology earned good grades, and four-year colleges outperformed community colleges in a survey of corporate human resources officials on the skills of new employees.

The survey -- released Monday by a business group, the Conference Board -- is most critical of the skills of those graduating with just a high school degree. Ratings were so poor there that the respondents indicated that they would shift hiring to those with more education. Of employers surveyed, 28 percent projected that they would reduce hiring of those with only a high school degree, 50 percent said that they would fill more of their positions with community college graduates, and 60 percent anticipated increased hiring of four-year college graduates.

Still, the grades were not stellar for college graduates -- and especially for those graduating from community colleges.

In seven areas, at least one in five respondents found community college graduates deficient (on a five-point scale from deficient to excellent) in skills they had identified as important:

Skills Seen as Deficient in Community College Graduates

Skill % HR Officials Seeing Deficiency
Written communications 47.3%
Writing in English 46.4%
Lifelong learning / self-direction 27.9%
Creativity / innovation 27.6%
Critical thinking / problem solving 22.8%
Oral communications 21.3%
Ethics / social responsibility 21.0%

In only one category -- information technology application -- did at least one in five 5 HR officials rate community college graduates as excellent. In that category, 25.7 percent ranked the graduates excellent.

For graduates of four-year colleges, at least one in five found the new degree holders deficient in three categories.

Skills Seen as Deficient in 4-Year College Graduates

Skill % HR Officials Seeing Deficiency
Written communications 27.8%
Writing in English 26.2%
Leadership 23.8%

In 9 categories, at least one in five found four-year college graduates excellent.

Skills Seen as Excellent in 4-Year College Graduates

Skill % HR Officials Seeing Excellence
Information technology application 46.3%
Diversity 28.3%
Critical thinking / problem solving 27.6%
English language 26.2%
Lifelong learning / self-direction 25.9%
Reading comprehension 25.9%
Oral communications 24.8%
Teamwork / collaboration 24.6%
Creativity / innovation 21.5%


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