Graduate Employability -ideas from Kaplan

A recent White Paper from Kaplan looks at the results of a survey of 198 employers who were asked about graduate recruitment and considers the implications and offers
practical advice and opinion around three key areas: recruitment, competency and learning and development.

Considering recruitment, 76% of employers continue to look for graduates and: “Employers also look to their graduate intake to provide future leaders,  and 60% of those surveyed believe that one in every two graduates  will go on to become just that.” Also, the report notes that: ” The Kaplan survey identified that 75% of employers found it  either moderately or very difficult to find the right graduates”.

The report also indicates an increasing level of interest in apprenticeships, noting that ” the reason employers are exploring non-graduate recruitment  is diversity. Employers want to ensure they recruit a wide range of  individuals and not just graduates. A diverse workforce provides some  degree of flexibility and can help with customer/client relationships.”

Apprenticeships are also seen as being a way of solving the problem of competence.

Employers were surveyed on the competences they expect from graduates, and the results make interesting reading.


Numeracy is second! I’ve highlighted this – numeracy is the second most important competence that employers want.

The bottom 5 competences were: Decisive, Leadership, Assertiveness, Critical Thinker and Technical Expertise.

The core skills that are valued at recruitment, an 2 years later are summarised below;


Once again analytical skills are reported highly.

The report goes on to talk about employability, and how universities might support development of employability skills, noting that ” a recent YouGov survey (2013) of 613 employers (including 419 directly responsible for recruiting graduates) found
that just under one in five businesses believes graduates are ready for work. It also revealed that more than half of employers said all or almost all graduate recruits started work without vital attributes, such as team-work, communication, punctuality and the ability to cope under pressure.”

Recognising that employability is key for employers (and it should be key for those universities that focus on such things) then Kaplan suggest: “Perhaps the answer is an employability qualification. Students enrol on a separate course that offers, on completion, a formally recognised qualification. But who should offer this? Whether it’s the employer,
universities or schools is a question requiring wider debate.”


A useful addition to the plethora of information available about graduate employability.

I think 2 things really stand out, and are areas that universities have in their power to address.

Firstly, numeracy and analytical skills : how many universities have developed statements on graduate attributes or on graduate skills which do not include this? I would guess most of them! In previous blog posts I’ve referred to the need for students to be numerate in their degrees, and the need for people to be able to understand and manipulate data. This could be an opportunity for an institution to really differentiate itself.

Secondly, a stand-alone qualification is potentially desirable, provided that it is actually meaningful, and not just a tick box exercise. Students would need to understand why a separate qualification was necessary. Alternatively, providers would need to create much clearer signposting for all students on how transferable employability skills are being developed throughout the degree course (the use of Mozilla open badges might be useful here).


2 thoughts on “Graduate Employability -ideas from Kaplan

  1. While I do agree at the importance of numeracy skills, it is worth noting that Kaplan state in the report that numeracy ranks highly due to the “higher percentage of finance professionals responding” to the survey. I wonder whether the results would have changed had the responses been weighted more evenly.

  2. That’s a valid point, Martin. I suspect this could have influenced the results, however as someone from a numerate background who is frequently shocked by the poor levels of even basic mathematical reasoning (percentages, probability) that I see in staff, consultants, as well as students I have taught, then I really think that universities are missing a trick here, or maybe are afraid to emphasise the importance of numeracy.

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