Employers say Australian universities are producing work-ready graduates

Employers say Australian universities are producing work-ready graduates
Employers expressed 86 percent satisfaction with collaborative skills such as teamwork and interpersonal skills. Source: Dhruva Reddy/Shutterstock

The ability to attend university is a right. Learning for the sake of learning should be valued.

But as some frugal governments have sought to reduce public funding for higher education institutions they’ve asked what is a fair question: do universities produce graduates ready for the workplace?

In Australia at least, it would seem they do. According to the 2017 Employer Satisfaction Survey (ESS) released this week by the country’s Department of Education, 84 percent of graduates’ direct supervisors reporting to be satisfied with their employees.

Some 93 percent of supervisors said that graduates’ qualifications prepared them “very well” or “well” for their current employment.

“Australia has excellent universities but they must place student outcomes at the forefront of their considerations to meet the needs of our economy, employers and ultimately boost the employment prospects of graduates,” Education Minister Simon Birmingham said.

First conducted in 2016, the ESS reports the views of more than 4,000 employers regarding the attributes of recent graduates from Australian higher education institutions, including their generic and technical skill sets as well as work readiness.

“Data such as this is vital in arming students with the necessary information on the performance of institutions and how courses are viewed by prospective employers to help them make more informed choices on what career paths to follow,” added Birmingham.

A whopping 93 percent of employers were satisfied with graduates’ technical skills – that is their ability to apply professional and technical knowledge and standards in the workplace.

Sorry boys – employers indicated they were more satisfied with female graduates than male ones. Source: Unsplash

Ninety percent expressed satisfaction with their ability to adapt, apply skills and work independently, while 86 percent were satisfied with the level of collaborative skills of graduates. Employability was ranked lowest at 85 percent overall.

“These results tell an overwhelmingly positive story about graduates in the labour market and that universities are preparing their students well for their chosen careers,” said Universities Australia‘s Acting Chief Executive Catriona Jackson.

“Employers have given university graduates the equivalent of a high distinction,” she added. Satisfaction with all graduate attributes improved between 2016 and 2017.

Interestingly, the report noted that “graduates tended to view their qualification as less important for their current employment than did their supervisors.” Nevertheless, only 11 percent of graduates felt that their education was “not at all important”.

In terms of institutions, Australia’s so-called “sandstone universities” were edged out by their younger and less famous competitors in terms of meeting the expectations of employers.

Respondents reported the highest rates of overall satisfaction with graduates from James Cook University (90.6 percent), The University of Notre Dame Australia (89.1 percent), the University of the Sunshine Coast (88.8 percent), Bond University (88.6 percent) and the University of Wollongong (88.1 percent) snagging the top five spots.


Other high performers were the University of Queensland (87.6 percent), RMIT University (87.3 percent), La Trobe University (86.6 percent), the University of Melbourne (86.1 percent) and Western Sydney University (85.8 percent).

The report notes, however, that employer satisfaction is “consistently high” across all of Australia’s universities, ranging between 91 percent to 77 percent.

Employers also indicated they were more satisfied with female graduates than male ones, at 84.5 percent versus 82.3 percent. Supervisors also expressed higher levels of overall satisfaction with younger graduates aged 30 and under, than their older counterparts.

“Employers are seeing, first-hand, the world-class quality of university graduates that we’re producing in Australia,” Jackson said.

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