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Graduate job-hopping a myth, says research

Graduate recruits are staying in post longer, but employers must work to close skills gaps

The proportion of graduates who are still at a company after three years increased to 74% in 2017, according to new research from the Institute of Student Employers (ISE).

The ISE's 2018 Development Survey, launched at the recent ISE Student Development Conference & Awards 2018, found that graduate retention rates have been stable in recent years, with 74% and 66% of graduates staying after three and five years respectively in 2017, up from 72% and 54% respectively in 2016.

Speaking at the event, ISE research analyst Samuel Gordon said that this data “dispels the myth that graduates are job-hoppers”.

The most common reason graduates left organisations was for a career change (19%), Gordon highlighted. The other most common reasons were being poached by another company (17%) and dissatisfaction with career progression (11%).

The research found, however, that employers report significant skills gaps in the graduates joining their organisations. While employers believe that graduates have the teamwork skills (88%) and interpersonal skills (77%) needed, just 5% believe they have managing-up skills and 16% that they have the skills to deal with conflict.

Stephen Isherwood, chief executive of the ISE, told HR magazine ahead of the conference that “there has always been an issue with graduates transitioning from university to work”.

“Employers don’t expect graduates to be fully work-ready but there are some concerns that graduates are less work-ready than in the past because they are less likely to do paper rounds or experience work from a younger age.”

Businesses are taking steps to tackle this issue, the research found, with 74% of employers taking specific actions to close the soft skills gap in 2017. The most common actions identified were changing the selection process to help them identify skilled candidates (42%) and designing more effective on-the-job skills training (34%).

However, employers appear less proactive in attempts to overcome the skills shortage in the long term, with just 26% determining the capability gaps of their organisations more than two years in advance.

Gordon explained that: “Organisations don’t know what they will want from a graduate hire in a few years’ time”, so when they speak to university students who may not be joining the workforce for a number of years “they can struggle to match up the skillsets”.

Also speaking at the event, director of Gradconsult Jane Clark reinforced the urgency of preparing graduates with the skills they will need in the future. Clark emphasised that, with the 'fourth Industrial Revolution' and businesses being disrupted by digital transformation,, employers need to prepare for these future skills.

“Rather than looking 40 or 50 years ahead to futurist trends we need to be more practical and look at the next three to five years and the changes that are coming then,” she said.