Communication most valued graduate skill, say SME employers

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More than two-thirds (69%) of SME employers consider good communication a key skill for graduates, according to research by Marbella International University Centre (MIUC).

The survey of 810 small- to medium-sized employers suggests that soft skills are generally more valued than technical knowledge when assessing candidates for graduate roles.

Taking the initiative (57%) and team-building skills (52%) were the second and third highest ranked qualities. Basic IT skills were seen as crucial by 43% of respondents, while 32% ranked advanced IT skills as a key consideration.

Only 10% of those polled classed speaking a foreign language as a key skill, although this figure rises to 13% among employers based in London. It also increases to 23% for companies with an annual turnover of £10 million or higher.

Dr Erika Polson, visiting professor in MIUC’s media and communications department, warned students are at risk of being unprepared for work if they are not given an "environment where these skills flourish".

"Certain soft skills were also more highly prized among respondents from larger companies," she added. "Today’s graduates are entering a highly-competitive job market, making the ability to demonstrate these skills vital.”

Top 10 important skills for graduates:

  1. Good communication skills (69%)
  2. Ability to take initiative (57%)
  3. Team-building skills (52%)
  4. Good time management skills (50%)
  5. Creative thinking (46%)
  6. Basic IT skills (43%)
  7. Good presentation skills (40%)
  8. Sector knowledge (34%)
  9. Advanced IT skills (32%)
  10. Ability to speak a foreign language (10%)
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