Britain's graduates a flop with employers

Aug 23 2005 by Brian Amble Print This Article

It's not just Britain's school leavers who are under fire from employers. Graduates too have been labelled as mediocre and unprepared for the workplace in a national survey of over 4,000 firms.

More than half of employers questioned in a national survey by the Forum for Private Business (FPB) regard graduates they employed as either 'average' to 'poor' in terms of numeracy and literacy and just under half rated their oral skills as 'average' to 'poor'.

The survey revealed that employers rated graduate recruits even more scathingly in terms of their overall readiness for the workplace.

Over half of employers thought graduates were 'average' to 'poor' when it came to time keeping or taking a 'phone message and three-quarters gradded graduates as either 'average' or 'poor' when assessing their ability to address a letter properly.

"This shows that basic educational and social skills of graduates who should be the educational cream of our younger generation are mediocre when it comes to them being prepared for earning a living," said the FPB's Chairman Len Collinson, who is the owner-manager of a number of small companies.

Meanwhile four out of 10 rated graduates' standards of general courtesy towards colleagues or customers as 'average' to 'poor'.

Jo Culf, Proprietor of Tales of the Earth wholesalers in London said that graduates display "an appalling lack of awareness of the responsibility of having a job. They exhibit too much independence and not enough inter-dependence, until it comes to being paid - and then they think the world owes them something."

"Graduates simply need to learn a few simple things: Manners, courtesy, a willingness to start at the bottom, respect for others, and, most important of all, how to spell." Another employer said.

Others complained that graduates had "no real loyalty to the job and lack any understanding about paid employment," and recounted stories of graduates turning up for job interviews "in flip-flops with chipped nail polish and thongs halfway up their backs."

But ominously for the ongoing health of the British economy, one employer was distinctly unimpressed when comparing British graduates with their counterparts form elsewhere:

"Currently we have an Australian and a Canadian in our office, both of whom put their UK university educated colleagues to shame," said Kate Owen, Managing Director of Opal Crafts Ltd, a London wholesale company.

"I am horrified at the abysmal standard that Britain is churning out. They cannot spell or sign off correctly and some have a comprehension of mathematics that the average 1960s 11-year-old would consider laughable," she added.

"It is worrying to see that the lack of basic skills is not just confined to school leavers," Len Collinson added. "It supports our view that universities should provide real opportunities for students to learn about preparing for the world of work."