Recent graduates are finding out the hard way that a college degree doesn't mean as much as it used to, new research shows.
A study by Accenture revealed that a number of U.S. employers are underutilizing the capabilities of young, college-educated workers. Specifically, 41 percent of people who graduated from college within the past two years are underemployed or working in jobs that do not require a college degree.
In addition, nearly two-thirds of workers who graduated recently believe they will need more training in order to get a job they want.
"A solution is sorely needed to bridge the disconnect between employers that are concerned about college graduates being unprepared for available jobs and the graduates who feel overqualified for them," said David Smith, senior managing director of Accenture's Talent & Organization practice. "Hiring someone with a higher-level degree than is necessary for a given job does not typically result in a higher-performing employee, and does not reduce the need to invest in training specialized skills."
The study identified a wide gap between the expectations this year's college graduates have for employer-provided training and what they are likely to receive when they start working. More than three-quarters of this year’s anticipated grads expect their first employer to provide formal training, but fewer than half of the graduates surveyed from 2011 to 2012 received formal training in their first job after graduation.
Katherine Lavelle, managing director of Accenture’s Talent & Organization practice in North America, said there is a real need for employers to re-examine how they hire, train and develop their employees.
"Students come out of school with great generalist skills but need tailored training to develop the specialist skills U.S. companies need," Lavelle said. "Employers need to improve the training they provide, develop deeper partnerships with universities and explore approaches such as apprenticeships to ensure they develop the necessary skills in their new hires and existing employees."
Accenture offers several tips for how employers can improve how they hire and foster young employees:
- Hire based on potential: Let go of the idea of finding perfect candidates who meet every skill criteria. Instead, invest in young people with strong generalist skills who, with some training and experience, can perform in roles that, at first glance, may not have seemed to match. Use assessments, performance analysis and skills databases to identify those young workers with strong potential.
- Include training in the total employment package: Employers cannot assume recent college graduates will arrive on the job with all the skills they need. Employers need to provide more, and better, training in order to be an employer of choice.
- Work closely with educational institutions: Develop work-experience programs, like internships or apprenticeships; create externships for professors and instructors; engage in curriculum development; and create customized training and industry-credential programs. These programs will help develop a fresh crop of talent that is better suited to the organization’s needs, and better match recent grads with jobs.
The study was based on surveys of 1,010 students who will be graduating from college this year, and 1,005 students who graduated from college in 2011 and 2012.