86% employer satisfaction with higher education graduates, report finds

The survey has shown employer satisfaction with graduates over a range of attributes

Minister for Education and Skills Joe McHugh today released the National Employer Survey 2018, which found that employers’ overall satisfaction with higher education graduates was 86%, and for further education and training (FET) graduates overall satisfaction was 84%.

The survey is undertaken by the Higher Education Authority (HEA), Quality and Qualifications Ireland and SOLAS, aiming to determine the satisfaction of employers with recent higher education and further education and training graduates. The survey also intends to ascertain employers’ views on barriers to graduate recruitment and collaboration between business and educational institutions.

Responses to the survey came from 760 organisations, 535 of which had recruited recent graduates from the higher education and further education sectors.

The 2018 survey has shown employer satisfaction with graduates over a range of attributes, including computer and technical literacy, working effectively with others and numeracy/processing numerical data.

Some slight differentiation was seen in the results of higher education graduates and those of FET graduates. Satisfaction levels for higher education graduates are highest for computer and technology literacy at 88%, working effectively with others at 87% and effective verbal communication at 85%.

FET graduates scored highest for working effectively with others at 89%, effective verbal communication at 85% and working effectively on their own at 85%.

Positive results were recorded for working effectively with others (87% and 89%) and for effective verbal communication (85%) for both higher education and FET graduates.

On launching the survey results, Minister McHugh said: “I am delighted to note the high level of satisfaction that employers express in graduates. First and foremost what this survey shows is that we have a very high calibre of graduates coming out of third level.”

“Employers clearly see the value that graduates from Ireland’s education and training sectors are adding to their business. And this is improving all the time.”

McHugh continued, saying: “Graduates are fulfilling the needs of all parts of the economy and their positive impact is being felt in all companies, regardless how big or small, the sector or where they are headquartered.”

The survey revealed that collaboration between education and industry is high with work placements being the most popular form of collaboration. McHugh praised “the engagement between industry and colleges, institutions and universities”, noting in particular that employers and graduates alike are “engaging on work placements, upskilling of staff and apprenticeships.”

Paul O’Toole, interim CEO of the HEA stated that while “Irish employers are generally very happy with the quality of our graduates”, we cannot begin to “rest on our laurels. With technological and other changes happening at an increasing pace, we need to enable graduates to be ready to adapt to whatever future challenges the workplace holds.”

Conor J Dunne, Acting CEO of SOLAS, noted the importance of the survey in reporting employer satisfaction with both higher education and FET graduates, stating: “We are pleased to note that employer satisfaction levels with further education and training graduates is at a similar level to third level graduates. This year’s report has also provided more detail on how further education and training graduates are viewed, both in terms of technical and personal skills, with our graduates scoring highly in areas such as effective communication, working with others and reliability.”

Lower rates of employer satisfaction were recorded for graduate attributes in the areas of commercial awareness, entrepreneurship and foreign languages. The government plans to address these areas by placing an increased focus on employer engagement through Regional Skills Fora, ongoing work on the Entrepreneurship Education Policy Statement and the implementation of Languages Connect, the Foreign Languages in Education Strategy.

Sarah Moran

Sarah Moran is the current Head Copyeditor of Trinity News. She is also a Senior Sophister English Literature student.