Business / Education / National

Generation Z feels far less prepared to enter workforce than previous generations

Ellucian, a provider of software and services built to power higher education, published findings of its survey “Credential Clout: How Higher Ed Can Prepare for an Evolving Job Market.” The survey, conducted in the U.S. by Wakefield Research, queried 500 students currently enrolled in a college or credential program aged 18-45, and 500 recruiters and hiring managers who fill salaried positions.

The findings identify that today’s college students feel under prepared for the workforce—with Generation Z reporting lower scores than its generational counterparts. Recruiters and hiring managers feel very confident that candidates have the skills needed to succeed, but there is a need for job prospects to master “soft skills” and obtain additional credentials that go beyond traditional degrees. With the majority of students planning to continue their education within their given field, the workforce will become increasingly specialized.

“The message from this survey is clear: students want and need to become lifelong learners, and in response, institutions must expand opportunities for perpetual learning,” said Katie Lynch-Holmes, Director of Global Enablement, Ellucian. “Colleges and universities will continue to offer traditional degrees, but should also incorporate or expand upon certifications, credentials, and other micro-learning opportunities aligned with local industry needs.

The Findings

Generation Z Feels Less Prepared for the Workforce Than Previous Generations

Students are enrolling in college to improve their career prospects, but they wonder if they’re learning skills that will prepare them for today’s workforce.

  • 62 percent of students currently attend college to improve job prospects
  • 39 percent of college students feel very prepared for the workforce as a result of their educational program
    • 36 percent of Generation Z (ages 18-21) feel very prepared for the workforce compared to 49 percent of millennials (ages 22-37) and 68 percent of Generation X (ages 38-53).

The Modern Workforce Requires Soft Skills

While recruiters largely agree that job candidates are coming in prepared, soft skills, such as communication, critical thinking, and problem-solving, are sought by both students and recruiters alike and increasingly recognized as critical to career success.

  • 62 percent of recruiters are very confident that job candidates have the skills to succeed
  • 40 percent of recruiters find that communication skills are lacking in job candidates
    • 56 percent of students are actively seeking this skill
  • 30 percent of recruiters find that critical thinking skills are lacking in job candidates
    • 55 percent of students are actively seeking this skill

Sustainable Career Paths Will Depend on Lifelong Learning

Both students and recruiters overwhelmingly agree that credentials, in addition to traditional degrees, are now essential to students’ job prospects.

  • 97 percent of students believe that credentials are essential to meeting their future career goals
  • 97 percent of recruiters believe credentials will be important in their company’s consideration of whether to hire someone over a candidate without credentials
  • 48 percent of executive recruiters think further education is needed more than once a year to stay relevant in the workplace

To learn more, read the full survey report.