Why do young Americans find it so hard to get jobs? One explanation is so simple as to be commonly overlooked: Many lack common sense about workplace life, including the importance of punctuality, time management, and good communication with co-workers. As Time reports, a two new surveys have found that lack of such basic skills ranks above insufficient technical experience as a key impediment for college grads in the workforce:
A survey by the Workforce Solutions Group at St. Louis Community College finds that more than 60% of employers say applicants lack “communication and interpersonal skills” — a jump of about 10 percentage points in just two years. A wide margin of managers also say today’s applicants can’t think critically and creatively, solve problems or write well.Another employer survey, this one by staffing company Adecco, turns up similar results. The company says in a statement, “44% of respondents cited soft skills, such as communication, critical thinking, creativity and collaboration, as the area with the biggest gap.” Only half as many say a lack of technical skills is the pain point.
Smart college students should pay attention to studies like these, and cultivate strength in areas where their peers are weak. And in this case, edging out the competition wouldn’t require a long, intense period of study.Yet the fact that our educational system is failing to impart some of the simple skills fundamental to office life is a sign of institutional dysfunction. In particular, our educational system from high school to college largely cocoons young people from the world of work. A well-integrated life includes that kind of responsibility, and is important for developing a mature personality.Under our current system, you can be an asocial, uncommunicative, selfish weirdo but still go to Harvard and get a Fulbright if you get high test scores and grades. Likewise, you can be conscientious, an excellent communicator and team player and still fail to get into a good college. In this system, there are no real rewards for having the skills employers want and not much drawback for lacking them. This needs to change.[Job interview photo courtesy of Shutterstock]