Graduates 'not well-equipped' for future workplace

Accenture report finds education and businesses at odds over students’ preparedness

Just 13 per cent of employers believe graduates are very well equipped to meet the needs of the future workforce, according to a new survey.

Employers say “soft” skills such as communication, work ethic, teamwork and problem-solving will be most needed for the workforce of the future over the coming years.

The findings are based on research by Accenture involving 130 employers in Ireland over recent months.

The same study also polled the opinions of more than 600 teachers, parents of secondary school pupils and young adults.


Overall, it found that education and businesses are at odds over how prepared students are for the working world.

Accenture’s Learning to Lead report found that while 66 per cent of teachers think students are equipped, some 42 percent of employers think the opposite.

In addition, only 23 percent of employers think the education sector is keeping pace with industry needs.

According to the report, the speed and direction of travel in education is an issue for around half of companies.

Inside schools, sentiments are similar with students and teachers painting a picture of a second level education system struggling to keep up with the needs of the working world.

The report explores how well prepared we are for the changing world of work, as well as the hurdles businesses in Ireland are confronted with today that must be addressed if they are to access a talent pool that can help them innovate and grow.

Alastair Blair, country managing director at Accenture in Ireland, said if we want Ireland to continue to provide a talent pool for the innovative companies based here, as well as improve the prospects of home-grown businesses, we must think hard about what they will need.

“We have a good education system in Ireland but, according to our report, there are challenges earlier in the education journey - particularly at second level - where the focus is more on aptitude than attitude,” he said.

“ This is more than just a research announcement - it’s a call to action for a stronger approach to how government, business and education can work together to shape a society in Ireland fit for the opportunities of tomorrow.”

Among students, the report highlights a disconnect between the skills 16-25 year olds believe they will need and what they are taught in the classroom.

Only 27 percent feel very prepared for the roles of the future, with 22 percent claiming not to feel prepared at all.

The report says this may reflect understandable uncertainty about what future jobs will look like.

Most teachers are also concerned that roles and the industries some students want to work in will be obsolete in the future.

In fact, almost two thirds of teachers believe that the way subjects are taught

in school equips students adequately for the working world.

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent