In 2016-17 there were 2.32 million students studying at UK higher education institutions - many of which are now graduating and entering the job market. With so many people set to start their career at once, businesses face a challenge to find well-matched candidates for grad-level jobs who will go on to find long-term success.
Finding the right people for the right jobs means identifying the skills that are key to long-term success, and research indicates that this might not necessarily boil down to academic prowess. According to Universities UK, a more notable difference between those who gain employment in graduate positions and those who don't is the prevalence of entrepreneurial skills.
Those graduates who possess entrepreneurial and leadership skills - or Grad-preneurs - are more likely to find a suitable graduate role and ultimately succeed in their career. Pareto recent survey found that 77% of graduates and 79% of employers believe entrepreneurial skills to be a key determiner for success.
However, while the majority of both graduates and employers feel recruiters value these skillsets - 72% of graduates and 76% of employers agree entrepreneurial skills are highly valued - they often don't agree on what these skills are and who excels in this regard. Business leaders looking for entrepreneurial skills are finding that today's graduates often lack the desired traits needed to succeed.
The Grad-preneur Gap
Despite both employers and graduates believing entrepreneurial skills to be important to the recruitment process, our data shows that there is a distinct gap when it comes to identifying entrepreneurial qualities.
The majority of graduates surveyed (79%) believe they possess the entrepreneurial spirit employers are looking for. However, only 40% of employers said they felt the graduates coming into their workplace are well prepared in this regard.
The discrepancy appears to come from a gap in the way both groups perceive these skills. At interview stage, employers highly value entrepreneurship, with over half (51%) saying they often ask questions relating to these skills, and only 5% saying they never do.
However, graduate perception is very different, with just a little over a quarter (28%) saying they'd been asked such questions, and 26% saying they'd never once been asked about entrepreneurial skills in an interview. Evidently employers are asking the right questions, but graduates don't realise what they're being asked. If this is the case, how can they sell themselves?
What are Entrepreneurial Skills?
The reason for the sizeable gap in perception comes down to a marked difference between what graduates and recruiters mean when they talk about entrepreneurial skills.
When employers ask about such a skillset, their top three factors are: Drive and a commitment to deliver results, innovation and creative thinking, and the ability to problem solve.
However, when graduates were asked what they expected employers were looking for, it was discovered that their top characteristics leaned towards communication, problem solving and commercial awareness.
This gap in the perception of key skills presents problems. For graduates, it's more difficult to prove they have the skills employers want, while for recruiters it's hard to identify who the stand-out candidates are.
It's perhaps no surprise that it was the skills graduates did not expect employers to be looking for where they were perceived to have fallen repeatedly short. Employers said there are a number of traits where they consistently see a lack of talent in graduates, including commercial awareness, the ability to sell and close deals and the ability to effectively network.
Commercial acumen, despite being seen as one of the main drivers of success for employers, is an area whey feel the majority of graduates are failing to prove themselves in. According to our data, as many as 84% of employers say graduates struggle to answer questions around commercial awareness.
The Development of Grad-preneurial Skills
Perhaps the biggest gap in perception of entrepreneurialism in graduates comes with regards to development. With nearly eight in ten grads believing they possess the skills they need, more than half (54%) said they felt they have already put in the work needed to develop these skills.
However, employers are less convinced of this, with over half (51%) saying there is still work to be done if graduates are to possess the entrepreneurial mindset they are looking for.
This is where training is a valuable asset to businesses. With employers seeing trends in the specific entrepreneurial soft skills they want grads to have, it presents an opportunity for them. If they target their training plans towards strengthening underlying employee abilities, they will be priming graduates for success for years to come.