Industry Market Trends

Survey Reveals the Skills that College Grads Lack the Most

Jun 19, 2013

Despite reports of chronic worker shortages for both middle-skilled jobs and high-skilled positions, new survey findings from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) signal that the newest wave of job applicants lack even the most basic skills, including "writing," "math," and "professionalism."

Almost half (49 percent) of the 468 human resources (HR) respondents to the SHRM survey said that 2013 college graduates lack basic writing skills (grammar, spelling, etc.) and 18 Skillspercent said that the newest grads lack sufficient math knowledge. HR professionals that participated in the March survey represent fields including manufacturing and retail trade, among others, and business sizes spanning from 1 employee to over 25,000.

SHRM's results also point to the job categories that are "very difficult" to fill with 2013 graduates. The top position types that organizations find challenging to fill are engineering (27 percent), high-skilled tech jobs such as programmers and technicians (27 percent), scientists (26 percent), skilled trades (26 percent), and managers and executives (25 percent).

For the 53 percent of organizations that intend to hire this year, some may hold back on adding to staff due to deficiencies in skills. Organizations say that new college graduates lack some applied skills that more experienced workers have, such as professionalism/work ethic (50 percent), business acumen (44 percent), written communications (35 percent), relationship building/soft skills (33 percent), and leadership (32 percent). Below is the full list of basic skills that organizations say college grads lack the most.


Where 2013 College Grads Fall Behind in Basic Skills

1)   Writing in English (grammar, spelling, etc), 49 percent

2)    Mathematics (computation), 18 percent

3)    English language (spoken), 13 percent

4)    Reading comprehension (in English), 10 percent

5)    Foreign languages, 9 percent

6)    History/geography, 6 percent

7)    Government/economics, 5 percent

8)    Science, 5 percent

9)    Humanities/arts, 3 percent

10)  Other, 4 percent

Do you agree with this assessment, based on what you've experienced within your own organization?