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Education Vs Soft Skills: When Do You Need Them?

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Research recently published by Cardiff University has revealed that focusing on grades and academic achievements may not be the best way to go towards ensuring a role for candidates. The report claims that those hiring are more concerned with ‘job readiness’ than academic history or grades.

What is ‘job readiness’?

Job readiness can refer to specific skills needed to carry out the role – skills which will not have necessarily been gained from academic training. Good time management, organisation and positive social skills rank higher than grades and degrees, indicating that these are the skills which should be focused on by the candidate.

Though this may appear to be a positive move towards inclusive hiring, it can also suggest a tendency towards those with more privileged backgrounds. Gaining soft skills still requires time and effort, something that is easier identified and undertaken by those from, say, wealthier backgrounds. The opportunity to gain experience in an internship programme, for instance, is easily available to people with a financial saftey net and almost impossible for those at the lower end of the financial scale.

The researchers stated that the “findings call for a fresh discussion on the meaning of ‘merit’ and ‘fairness’ in the relationship between education and the labour market, especially at a time when government reforms in the UK are premised on the assumption that increasing intergenerational social mobility can be achieved by widening access to higher education”.

When is education essential?

Other research carried out this week revealed the degrees most likely to land a candidate a role – for those jobs which require specific training. When it comes to finishing University and heading straight into employment, some degrees work better than others.

In the UK, the top degree for employability are in the fields of medicine and dentistry, which obviously are required for a career in medicine. 99% of medicine candidates are reportedly hired within 6 months of graduating from their studies. This is closely followed by veterinary science graduates, 98% of whom find employment within the first 6 months. The first 6 months are successful for 90% of architecture candidates, 90% of education graduates and 85% who study engineering.

While certain roles require soft skills not necessarily gained through university education, it is clear that much of the UK’s job market relies on formal training. It is important for hiring managers to be able to identify when academic training is essential, and when life experience is good enough to gain transferable skills for the role.

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