Skills Crucial To Secure Success In The Workforce

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Skills for Success A

In 2018 the number of higher education students reached a record high with almost a staggering quarter of a million people studying in third level education in Ireland. O’Brien stated that Ireland has ‘the highest proportion of school-leavers progressing to higher education within the EU’ (O’Brien, 2019). Between 2010 to 2016, according to the statistics from the Central Statistics Office, the most popular field of study in each year was ‘Business, Administration and Law’ (Central Statistics Office , 2019). As a new third level business student, the above figures can be daunting and cause concern as it would indicate that the job market is extremely competitive and that it is difficult to stand out in this field, as many highly educated people are applying for the same jobs. In order to be a successful business graduate, one must possess the attributes that employers and companies consider most desirable. These attributes would include an array of hard and soft skills.

According to Mark Mitchell, director of Grad Ireland, in today’s current climate ‘a third-level qualification, in isolation, does not translate into work-readiness’ (Mitchell, 2017). Due to the vast increase in the number of people obtaining higher education, graduates must display a multitude of hard and soft skills, required attributes and experience to accompany their qualifications in order to become more successful in the business world. In more recent years according to numerous researches, employers have placed more emphasis on the need for development of soft skills in a workplace rather than hard skills. In a report carried out by Deloitte, “Soft Skills for Business Success”, they estimate that soft skills such as communication, critical- thinking skills, teamwork and innovation will account for two thirds of all jobs by 2030 (DeakinCo., 2017).

Hard skills are most likely gained during the duration of the business degree, especially if the degree involved a specialization in a certain area. Graduates develop the necessary attributes or hard skills suitable for whatever area or industry that their studies were preparing them for, for example, skills such as IT and software skills, data analysis or proficiency in a foreign language. Employers want business graduates to emphasise how the hard skills they possess make them suitable for a certain position and what attributes make them more desirable than the next person.

Furthermore, the Council for Industry and Higher Education states that, different employers need graduates who have a variety of attributes (Lowden, Hall, Elliot, Lewin, 2011). There is a growing emphasis by employers for the need for graduates to possess a range of competences which will enable employees to work in a global environment, to be diverse, to work within multi-cultural teams, to be innovative and resourceful and have strong communication skills with the ability to problem solve.

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Additionally, employers are looking for graduates that are well rounded and have many positive traits and desirable characteristics. A graduate with strong self-management skills are more reliable, efficient, use their own initiative and require less supervision. Whereas a graduate with excellent communication skills will be able to develop better relationships with clients and therefore improve the company’s outcomes (DeakinCo., 2017). Graduates that participate in extracurricular activities such as clubs and societies are viewed more suitable, as they have gained skills and experiences that are not learned in a classroom such as team-work skills. According to the findings of a study done by the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, employers perceived extracurricular involvement as a factor influencing graduate employability to a moderate extent ( Akinrinmade & Ayeni , 2017). By providing facilities for such clubs and societies universities and colleges are aiding business graduates in improving their life skills and making them more attractive to future employers.

The desirable attributes that business graduates display such as their soft skills are more difficult to learn and to teach than hard skills, which can be easily thought with the right training. It takes a lot more commitment, awareness and acceptance of one’s flaws and the willingness to change and grow as a person to develop such soft skills (Mason, 2019). Participating in such extracurricular activities aids students in developing soft skills, which they can bring with them into their workplace.

Universities also offer programs to help develop leadership skills which are highly desired attributes in a business environment. For example, The National College of Ireland, Galway, offer the CÉIM program that helps students to develop life-long skills and graduate attributes to increase their employability (CÉIM, 2019). CÉIM is student led and orientated and helps students to develop independent learning skills and settle into university. Research on CÉIM shows that regular attendees perform better academically and settle into university quicker (CÉIM, 2019).

Furthermore, most business graduates have completed some form of work experience whether that be work placement, summer internships or part time jobs. These work experiences give business graduates the opportunity to display and further develop their skills making them more employable. The presence of graduate award programmes available in many universities appears to be highly regarded by graduates and potential employers as it facilitates students access to work-related learning activities in universities and work placement opportunities (Lowden, et al., 2011).

In conclusion, the most desirable attributes of a business graduate are both their hard and soft skills, however, graduates need to be aware of the importance of soft skills and how they impact on employment. Additionally, as globalisation and technology advance the importance of soft skills will be of great benefit to employers. Knowing how important certain attributes are to gaining employment, students must identify their strengths and weaknesses and invest time and effort in improving their soft skills, as it would be of benefit for future employment. Business graduates possess many desirable attributes due to their level of education and innovative and determined nature, making them a valuable asset to the business world.

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