The Skill Graduates Need Most

Employee Skills web 300x222The results of a recent survey capturing the skills employers want most out of their new hires may surprise you.

Instead of writing, visual, or electronic communication skills, employers identified speaking as their most desired skill from recent graduates.

Verbal skills include interpersonal communication, presenting and listening skills, as well as team or group work. They simply touch more aspects of business life than the others. Electronic skills, while rising in importance as technology affects evermore facets of work, ranked second in the study.

52 employers in the engineering, business, health sciences, and social work fields responded to the survey. The results appear in Business and Professional Communication Quarterly.

Generally, employers prefer their new hires to come into the workplace with a variety of “soft skills”, of which speaking and collaboration are included. The approach is that businesses can teach new hires about their particular ways of work and how to succeed in their environment, but soft skills are what makes that employee successful once they are through with that on-the-job instruction.

How can schools prepare students?

High schoolers used to consistently take communications courses, but those skills have been melded into general language arts. It’s too soon to tell, but that may actually help strengthen all communication skills.

That being said, any curricula used should expressly address communication skills, especially speaking. Students should not be expected to grow their speaking prowess tangentially during random projects.

While this was a general survey, it would be helpful for schools and districts to discuss with local employers just what skills they would like to see out of the graduating students. The curricula can then be tailored (within state standards) to the needs of the local business community. It may even pave the way for students to have some on-the-job or internship experiences.

The survey also doesn’t cover the more technical skills that would be needed in particular lines of business. Those would obviously be addressed more at the college level.

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