The jobs of today and tomorrow demand strong soft skills from prospective employees, but Gen Z workforce preparation is lacking, according to a new survey.

Credential Clout: How Higher Ed Can Prepare for an Evolving Job Market, the survey from Ellucian and Wakefield Research, queried 500 students ages 18-45 enrolled in a college or credential program. It also includes responses from 500 recruiters and hiring managers.

Recruiters and hiring managers feel very confident that candidates have the skills needed to succeed, but there is a need for job prospects to master “soft skills” and obtain additional credentials that go beyond traditional degrees. With the majority of students planning to continue their education within their given field, the workforce will become increasingly specialized.

Gen Z workforce preparation could be better

Although 62 percent of students are enrolled in college to improve their career prospects, they aren’t quite certain they’re learning the skills that will prepare them for today’s workforce.

Just 39 percent of surveyed college students say they feel their educational program has made them “very prepared” for the workforce.

Breaking down preparation by generation, Gen Z workforce preparation lags behind other groups:

  • 36 percent of Generation Z (ages 18-21) feel very prepared for the workforce compared to 49 percent of Millennials (ages 22-37) and 68 percent of Generation X (ages 38-53)

Soft skills such as communication, critical thinking, and problem-solving are increasingly recognized as critical to career success. Recruiters generally agree that job candidates are coming in prepared, but they find certain top soft skills lacking–40 percent of recruiters find communication skills lacking, and 30 percent find a dearth of critical thinking or problem solving. Coincidentally, these are the two skills students seek to learn most in their educational programs (56 percent seek out communication skills and 55 percent look for critical thinking skills).

Sixty-two percent of recruiters are very confident that job candidates have the skills to succeed, while 40 percent find communication skills lacking in job candidates. What’s more, when it comes to communication, 56 percent of students are actively seeking this skill. Thirty percent of recruiters find critical thinking skills lacking in job candidates, and 55 percent of students are working to develop critical thinking skills.

Surveyed recruiters say candidates with a college degree have more skills than those without, but only one-third of organizations require a degree for entry-level positions.

Employers are evenly split on degrees versus credentials–50 percent say degree attainment is a better read of job candidates’ qualifications, whil the other 50 percent say credentials are better. One-quarter accept credentials in place of a degree.

Recruiters also rank top qualities of credential and degree candidates similarly, including knowledge of industry trends, technical skills, specialized knowledge, and networking skills.

Gen Z workforce preparation doesn’t stop after their current educational program–85 percent say they plan to pursue a degree or credential in the future. This is true for 91 percent of Millennials and 91 percent of Gen X students.

About the Author:

Laura Ascione

Laura Ascione is the Managing Editor, Content Services at eSchool Media. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland's prestigious Philip Merrill College of Journalism. When she isn't wrangling her two children, Laura enjoys running, photography, home improvement, and rooting for the Terps. Find Laura on Twitter: @eSN_Laura http://twitter.com/eSN_Laura


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