The Bentley Preparedness Survey, conducted on the University’s behalf by KRC Research, surveyed more than 3,000 business recruiters and managers, high school and college students, recent college graduates, parents, and educators on the “why, what and how” behind the millennial generation’s challenges in the 21st century workforce. The survey of nine audiences identified a number of solutions to alleviate the preparedness problem and found high levels of agreement among different stakeholders on those solutions. But the study also highlights a lack of consensus in how stakeholders actually define preparedness and views vary on which skills are needed.
All stakeholder groups recognize that they are part of the preparedness problem, but, more importantly, they also agree that each group has a role to play in the solution. Half (49%) of higher education officials give colleges and universities a grade of “C” or lower on preparing recent college graduates for their first jobs. Half (51%) of business decision makers and 43% of corporate recruiters give the business community a grade of “C” or lower. And 37% of recent college graduates rate their own preparedness a “C” or lower.
Among all of the solutions tested, the most popular puts the responsibility on students, followed by colleges and universities, business and, finally, parents.
Respondents agree on both the extent of the preparedness problem and its impact. A majority (58%) of respondents gives recent college graduates a letter grade of “C” or lower on their preparedness for their first job. Nearly two-thirds (62%) consider this lack of preparedness to be a “real problem,” while 62% of business decision makers and recruiters say that unpreparedness harms the day-to-day productivity of their businesses.
But respondents don’t agree on how best to define preparedness. For example, just 7% of high school students and 9% of college students define preparedness as “work ethic,” compared with 23% of business decision makers and 18% of corporate recruiters. Business leaders are much more likely to define preparedness as “work ethic.” They also have strong reservations about whether millennials actually have a strong work ethic. Nearly three-quarters (74%) of business leaders say millennials lack the work ethic of prior generations. Millennials believe that they do have a strong work ethic (52%).
Employers provide conflicting information about the skills they value most in young employees. While the majority of business decision makers (66%) and corporate recruiters (61%) say that hard and soft skills are equally important, majorities also say that they would prefer to hire a recent graduate with industry-specific skills than a liberal arts graduate who needs to be trained first. Further confusing matters, when asked to assess the importance of a comprehensive set of individual skills, business stakeholders put soft skills on top (rating these skills as “very important”: integrity, 81%; professionalism, 75%; positive attitude, 75%). These mixed messages suggest that part of the preparedness problem may stem from the business community’s difficulty in clearly expressing its needs.
The survey found significant consensus around solutions to the preparedness challenge, identifying roles that millennials, parents, businesses, and colleges must play to boost preparedness. For example, 78% of respondents agree that businesses should partner with colleges and universities in developing business curricula; 85% agree that colleges must impart “real-world expertise” to their students; 94% agree that students must commit to being “lifelong learners;” and 85% agree that parents should encourage their children to take business classes.
“With persistently elevated levels of unemployment among young college graduates, it is absolutely critical that all parties do everything possible to pursue effective strategies for helping millennials succeed in the workplace,” said Gloria Larson , Bentley’s president. “If students, parents, businesses, and colleges all step up and do their part, we can make significant progress in closing the preparedness gap.”
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