After four hard years and one expensive piece of paper, college graduates are being left to sink or swim by their first employers, with more than half of all recent college grads saying they did not receive training at their first job.
Accenture’s second annual Graduate Employment Survey revealed staggering differences between the expectations for the class of 2014 and the realities faced by the classes of 2012 and 2013. The study polled 1,010 students who are graduating from college this year and 1,005 who graduated within the past two years. While 80 percent of this year’s college graduates said they expected their first employer to provide a formal training program, only 48 percent of 2012 and 2013 graduates said they received one.
What makes this lack of training even more troublesome is the number of graduates who are working in fields that do not require their college degree. Only 67 percent of the members of the classes of 2012 and 2013 are working in their chosen field, with 46 percent saying they are underemployed.
David Smith, global managing director for talent and organization at Accenture, said that this gap between expectations and reality is the fault of both graduates and employers.
“Overall, employers expect students straight out of college to have skills that will enable them to be productive in their job immediately,” Smith said. “In reality, most graduates are prepared for the workforce in general, but not for the exact roles their employers want them to fill. On the other hand, graduates look to their employers to provide skill development and aren’t getting it.
Accenture recommends that companies highlight their ability to offer training because it will be appealing when trying to attract and retain top talent.
“Training and development can take a lot of different forms, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive,” Smith said. Companies could offer peer-to-peer learning through social media and mentorships, take advantage of self-made employee videos and games or consider massive online open courses to prepare their newly graduated workers.
Although the study showed numbers might be disconcerting to future college graduates, the forecast isn’t as bleak as it seems. A recent report from the National Association of Colleges and Employers indicates U.S. employers expect to hire 8.6 percent more graduates from the class of 2014.
Even though the survey found there were fewer pending grads with jobs lined up at the time of graduation than last year, Smith believes the job market is trending upward. However, for this upward trend to continue, Smith said employee training cannot become a casualty.
“Training should not be ignored of fall victim to cost-cutting measures,” he said. If it is, knowledgeable workers with specific hard skills, such as analytics skills, will continue to be in short supply.