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Employers looking for multi-skilled graduates

Employers are looking for multi-skilled university graduates, not just top academic achievers, a new Victoria University survey has shown.

The survey, which aimed to find the ‘top ten’ skills New Zealand employers were looking for, found that strong verbal and interpersonal communication skills were rated ahead of problem-solving abilities and academic achievement.

Lower down the list came self-motivation, analytical skills, flexibility, being a team player, strong written communication skills, energy and creativity.

“The results show that the key to employment is ‘employability’”, said Liz Medford, Head of Victoria University’s Career Development and Employment Service. “In addition to sound academic achievement, graduates must possess cross-functional skills.”

Ms Medford said job-hunters should look at the top ten skills required collectively rather than individually. “Many employers are looking for a combination of certain skills and attributes. Those who succeed need to have several strengths to offer.”

In order, the top ten skills or attributes listed by employers were: 1) strong verbal and interpersonal communication; 2) problem solving; 3) sound academic achievement; 4) self-motivated / self-management / self-starter; 5) analytical and conceptual; 6) flexible and adaptable ‘can-do’ attitude; 7) team player; 8) strong written communication; 9) energy and enthusiasm; 10) creative / innovative.

Other skills and attributes which were mentioned by employers but didn’t make the top ten included: results orientated (meeting deadlines); all-rounder; taking ownership (extra effort); advanced computer literacy; passion / drive / ambition; real world experience using technical skills; confidence; and positive attitude.

“Students will find the survey results useful in identifying skill gaps and strategies to improve their employability, and when they are preparing evidence to present for interviews,” Ms Medford said.

Employers also found the exercise useful, Ms Medford said. “Being asked to rank each of the skills made them think more seriously about which skills and attributes were considered the most important and why.”

Victoria University is using the results of the survey to design a Professional Skills Development Programme which will give students formal recognition of additional skills they have acquired in addition to their academic programme.

The Employment Skills Survey was conducted by Victoria University’s Career Development and Employment Service in March 2000. The survey sampled 200 employers who were actively recruiting or who had recently recruited university graduates. The response rate was 35 percent (70 employers).

To identify the top ten skills, an average rank was obtained for each skill / attribute and then re-ordered according to the average. To ensure this was representative, the medians were also examined and gave the same top ten order.

Victoria University Wellington

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