Skills training: how to support and develop today’s graduates

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As a new generation of graduates enters the workforce, training providers will need to adapt their methods according to the skills and preferences of these new young recruits and their employers.

From healthcare and construction to sales and education, across the full spectrum of industries looking to hire graduates, there is a core set of skills that are consistently seen as crucial by recruiters, according to research from Pareto Law.

Of course, not all graduates will come packaged with every skill needed to find success in the business world. Most will need coaching and training to nurture their potential.

For L&D professionals, graduate recruitment offers the perfect opportunity to create a thriving graduate culture in the workplace and zone in on the key skills employers require and provide innovative training measures that help the new recruits become the best they possibly can be.

Right now, we’re in the midst of a graduate overlap between millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) and generation Z (born after 1996). This adds yet another dimension to the evolution of L&D, with any training provided having to take into account the differences that exist between these two groups.

We’ll also consider this generational impact and suggest how you can best support today’s graduates as they forge their way in the world of work.

IT skills

In the digital age, strong IT skills are an essential, with more than 80% of employed adults in the UK aged 35 to 44 using a computer at work every day, according to an ONS report.

This was a point driven home in the research from Pareto Law, where all ten key industries examined cited IT skills as a requirement in their job ads.

Introduce your graduates to the idea of monitoring their workflow, creating tasks, planning ahead and updating their achievements as they go to help them maximise their productivity.

As generation Z become your primary focus in the classroom, it’s worth evaluating how you deliver IT training. These individuals have grown up surrounded by technology and are adept at using various devices and the internet, so they’ll zone out if you start with the basics.

Make use of the inherent skills they already possess and ensure your IT courses are challenging enough to remain interesting.

For example, rather than teaching them how to use programmes like Excel and PowerPoint, make courses more about tricks and shortcuts you can use while working with them.  

Organisation

Another recurring soft skill valued in the research was organisation. Making sure everyone knows what they’re doing and manages themselves and their time intuitively is vital in the modern workplace.

This has been made easier in recent years by the emergence of digital workflow management, which creates a nice window of opportunity for you to develop digital native graduates and ensure they have all the tools to be well organised at work.

There are a wide variety of workflow management programmes available, such as Trello, which can help with this.

Introduce your graduates to the idea of monitoring their workflow, creating tasks, planning ahead and updating their achievements as they go to help them maximise their productivity.

Encourage them to sign up to one of these tools and play around with the different functions. Make the most of their flair for technology and let them explore.

Many of the programmes can also be downloaded onto phones and tablets, ideal for generation Z, whose primary means of consuming content is through mobile devices.

Communication and confidence

Communication and confidence are vital across a number of industries, particularly when it comes to sales and client-facing roles. While, to a degree, some of this is natural, there are still some tips and training methods that can be used by L&D professionals to further improve soft skills among digital natives

In his book Silent Messages, Professor Albert Mehrabian famously suggested that body language accounted for 55% of how people perceive confidence, with 38% attributed to tone of voice and just 7% to the actual words.

Although his proportions are widely disputed, the power of non-verbal communications is clearly highly influential.

The main takeaway from the study is the importance of soft skills and digital capabilities in an ever-increasingly competitive market.

Share some body language tips to help recruits succeed when they move into their new role. For example, open palms and relaxed hand movements signal to others that you feel at ease.

Encourage them to make eye contact with those they are speaking to and avoid signs of anxiety such as tapping or rubbing their hands together.

If they show that they are confident in what they are saying, then their chance of success will be far greater.

Passion

Passion is one of the key soft skills employers are looking for in potential hires. Your role as an L&D professional is to help graduate recruits communicate this effectively through their work.

Firstly, find out what they like about the role. Ask your trainees to specify the tasks and roles that they enjoy most. Help them analyse why they like those things, and if there are any common factors.

Do they have a keen eye for problem solving, or perhaps they enjoy face-to-face communication?

Building on their preferences, you can create a career development plan to suggest what they might be aiming to achieve in coming years, which helps to show that they are invested in what they’re doing and committed to success in the long run.

Industry knowledge

Passion for the role naturally feeds a desire to learn about the wider industry. Your job is to point your graduates in the right direction, highlighting publications and journals that they can read up on.  

Many offer a daily bulletin service, delivering all the most recent developments in the industry into your email inbox. This is perfect for generation Z, who like to consume relevant content quickly and on the go.

The main takeaway from the study is the importance of soft skills and digital capabilities in an ever-increasingly competitive market.

Drawing on the results of this research, we can create innovative L&D plans that draw on the strengths of generation Z graduates to fulfill the wants of employers and – ultimately – help graduates to become successful.

Interested in this topic? Read Education and our future workforce: training tomorrow’s teams.

About Ellie Tordoff

About Ellie Tordoff

James Banks is Head of Talent at graduate recruitment company, Pareto Law. His role allows him to recruit, train and develop the top new talent that joins Pareto, as well as the delivery of all of its graduate recruitment activities for its many clients across the UK, Europe and US.

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