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Skills Employers Want Now

Updated on December 31, 2017

Interpersonal Communication

Communication skills are vital in the conference room
Communication skills are vital in the conference room | Source

Communication Skills are Needed

What do employers expect of a college graduate when he or she arrives for that first day on the job? According to a study by Hart Research Associates (2010) employers want active learning and research skills. They want graduates able to do evidence-based analysis. "The ability to effectively communicate orally and in writing" tops the list of skills employers want.

Unfortunately their chances of getting graduates with such skills are not as good as they could or should be. Bauerlin (2012) cites a conversation with an epidemiologist who finds that many young researchers cannot do a proper literature review, a process that requires merely reading, understanding, and summarizing journal articles. Employers in many fields are finding young hires unable to think critically and communicate winsomely--or even do basic writing tasks.

Don't They Learn These Skills at School?

Why are graduates unprepared for work? The skills employers want take time to develop and K-12 schools are too often forced to use that time reviewing for end-of-grade examinations. Common Core will only exacerbate the problem. The emphases on state testing and self-esteem in today's public schools crowd out Socratic discussions, great literature and conceptual presentations of mathematics and science.

College professors then find themselves faced with students who do not have the expected communication and computation skill sets as they begin college-level work. Many students are spending their freshman year of college taking remedial classes taught at a high school level. One must wonder if they will ever catch up, given the pressure on state universities to get those kids out in four years regardless of where they started academically. The outlook seems dismal for graduates and for companies seeking young people who are ready to hit the ground running.

Confidence Without Competence

Even worse for employers, "high school teachers consistently assess the skills of their graduating students more highly than college teachers assess the skills of their entering students" (Bauerlin, 2008, p.197). When professors are unable to make up the deficiencies, employers are often faced with college graduates that have high self-esteem but cannot write a proper business letter or report.

Is There Still Hope?

There is always hope. We can start today wherever we are and commit to constant improvement. Parents can help young people by reading and discussing good books with them or talking about the news of the day. Teachers and parents can fight for valuable instructional time, convincing education bureaucrats and politicians that at some point there is enough testing. Students can take the initiative to learn skills through MOOCS or independent reading.

We can no longer take for granted that a high school or college diploma means adequate preparation for the world of work. Everyone must take charge of his/her own education and take advantage of all the training an employer may offer as well.


Hart Research Associates.(2010). Raising the bar: Employers' views on college learning in the wake of the economic downturn. Retrieved May 23, 2012 from

Bauerlin, M. (2008). The dumbest generation. New York: Tarcher/Penguin.

Bauerlin, M. (2012). Employers want eighteenth century skills. Brainstorm blog. Retrieved May 23, 2012 from

Reading is Vital for Continuing Education


Do You Need to Hire a Company English Teacher?

Do the Training In-House

Given the vital importance of written and oral communications skills in almost every field, employers should consider hiring an English teacher or a librarian to teach research skills and technical writing. A gifted teacher, customizing instruction for one company, could pay dividends for years to come. Concentrated, focused instruction from a professional who knows how to navigate the internet, how to locate and evaluate print resources, and how to organize important information in a presentable manner would cause productivity to soar. Employees could enjoy the real self-esteem that comes from a job well done and employers would gain a competitive advantage by having people with the necessary skills to do an excellent job.

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    • kschimmel profile image

      Kimberly Schimmel 4 years ago from North Carolina, USA

      Yes, when I worked at a university I was distraught over the typos I regularly found on the university's website. It was so embarrassing! I wash I'd had admin privileges so I could have fixed them.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 4 years ago from USA

      You are absolutely on-target. We have confident youngsters who cannot communicate well orally or in writing. I worked in HR for a Fortune 500 company and at times I was appalled but also saddened.

    • Alecia Murphy profile image

      Alecia Murphy 5 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      I like the sentiment of what you are saying. I am a college graduate but have met many college graduates who do not know basic grammar and English rules. English is a layered language and I'm not a master of it yet even though it is my first language- but I continually try to improve my skills by reading and writing. Maybe workplaces should have company reading so people don't lose their skill sets! Great hub!

    • kschimmel profile image

      Kimberly Schimmel 5 years ago from North Carolina, USA

      I could see a bright future for English teachers and reference librarians working in human resources departments to develop continuing education for employees. Smarter employees will work smarter!

    • SkeetyD profile image

      SkeetyD 5 years ago from Barbados

      Great article