Employers' expectations of graduates 'too specific'

Long-running criticisms of IT graduates' perceived lack of readiness for work have been countered by a new study which...

Long-running criticisms of IT graduates' perceived lack of readiness for work have been countered by a new study which saidemployers need to look at their own attitudes and how they provide their training.

The study by the Conference of Professors and Heads of Computing (CPHC), which looked at several government and industry reports on IT skills, pointed to a possible conflict between employers' demands and the role of higher education.

"Employers may make demands which are too specific for higher education institutions, which are attempting to provide education that matches the broad needs of students and of the whole economy," said the CPHC, which has close links with the BCS.

"The demands of students and of the industrial customers of higher education may conflict.

"University courses can be used as a training ground for generic skills, but students may be unwilling to develop these as part of their computing degrees."

The CPHC said employers may be "unrealistic" about the range of skills or work experience they expect new graduates to have, and added that employers are "frequently slow" to provide work placements or other work experience opportunities for students.

Employer prejudices about universities can also colour views, the CPHC said.

"Employers that favour graduates from prestigious universities may miss out on some of the graduates with the best work experience and training from collaboration with industry," it said.

"Unfounded prejudice against universities, graduates and education may exist in some areas of business and industry, particularly in smaller organisations."

The organisation suggested that, when pressed by researchers, employers did not really know what they wanted. "While ready to give a general answer to a question about their satisfaction with graduate recruits, employers often find it difficult to articulate their precise demands," it said.

The CPHC also warned of possible shortcomings in research: sample sizes should be taken in consideration; questions can be very open-ended or leading; and the definition of a "satisfactory" graduate for immediate employment may be unclear or disputed.

Whatever the arguments on either side, the CPHC gave employers food for thought with one simple statement, "Employers have a responsibility to provide training."

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