Students think they're ready for the workforce. Employers disagree.

Students believe they're ready for the workplace, but employers aren't so sure, finds a survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).

To conduct the survey, researchers at NACE asked 4,213 graduating seniors and 201 employers to rate recent grads' proficiency in eight career-ready competencies. A high percentage of students were confident about their proficiency in almost every category, while employers disagreed, Jeremy Bauer-Wolf writes for Inside Higher Ed. 

Here are the biggest divides between students' and employers' perception of recent grads' workforce readiness:

  • 89.4% of students feel their work ethic is proficient, compared to 42.5% of employers;
  • 79.4% of students consider their communication skills proficient, compared to 41.6% of employers; and
  • 70.5% of students believe they have leadership skills, compared to only a third of employers.

The stark differences in perception suggest that "employers see skills gaps... where college students don't believe gaps exist," according to statement from NACE. 

The disconnect between employers and students may be exacerbated by the differences in how these two groups define the career-ready competencies, says Brandon Busteed, executive director of higher education at Gallup.

For example, students may feel confident about their writing skills because they excel at academic papers, but written communication often takes a different form in the workplace, he notes. Similarly, students may associate critical thinking with in-depth analysis, while employers tend to define the skill as original thought, says Busteed.

Miscommunication between students and employers may be at the heart of these skills gaps, Brenda Perea wrote for Community College Daily. There's a disconnect between how students communicate their abilities and how employers interpret them, she adds.  

To prepare for the labor market, students should practice articulating how their skills can apply in the professional world, says Megan Adams, a senior consultant at EAB. And colleges need to help students realize that the skills they're learning in class go beyond the content itself, she adds (Bauer-Wolf, Inside Higher Ed, 2/27; NACE Staff, NACE, 2/27).

Keep reading: How to translate student employment into meaningful career development


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