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Business and education must collaborate better on culture

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CIPD chief executive Peter Cheese said business schools must equip talent with soft skills

Business schools and employers must work more closely together so that future talent better understands culture, according to chief executive of the CIPD Peter Cheese.

Speaking at the Association of MBAs (AMBA) Employers Forum, Cheese highlighted a gulf between business and education that leaves graduates unprepared for the world of work. “The reality is we don’t have a good match between the skills of education and the skills of work,” he said, bemoaning some graduates' lack of basic employability skills such as acting and dressing appropriately in an office.

“A lot of recruitment is based on behavioural skills; these are the things that become really important. Whatever we’re doing in business schools we need to do this more, give people access to different things… do they understand things like values and behaviours, and how resilient are they?” said Cheese.

Regarding senior leadership capabilities, Cheese said that in today’s challenging business landscape, where technology is exacting rapid change and leaders must contend with deteriorating trust in institutions, business schools must equip graduates with more than just technical ability.

“We need to create learning experiences for students that round them out and equip them for this changing world,” he added. “If we’re teaching people stuff about the business world then we need to be teaching them about culture. That’s something we haven’t done enough of. That’s something leaders are struggling with today. Because it’s corporate culture that’s the bigger determinant than anything else.”

Cheese emphasised, however, that it is business’ responsibility to help universities provide the right kinds of learning experiences, and to continue equipping employees with agile, adaptable soft skills. He said Britain's exit from the EU may force organisations to do better here.

“I don’t think we’ll be daft enough to restrict European migrant labour to the UK,” he said. “On the other hand, if it does start to restrict supply this might be another trigger for us to better invest in the workforce; to work out how we make better use of the skills of the workforce.”

Also speaking at AMBA’s Employers Forum was Phillip Haig, senior university recruitment partner (EMEA) at Johnson and Johnson. He agreed that it isn’t business schools' responsibility alone to equip the leaders of tomorrow with the right skills. “I don’t think it’s necessarily incumbent on business schools; it’s for employers to develop this,” he said. “For me the biggest thing is the need for these soft skills… so it’s about [business school grads] knowing how to maximise more technical skills in organisations to get the most from the environment and people around them.”