Bridging the skills gap A quarter of employers are finding it difficult to recruit quality graduates and 40% think that degrees have become devalued as a way of measuring employability. But a high proportion of workers feel it is employers who are failing by not doing enough to communicate the realities of the job when they are recruiting. Nearly three quarters of workers have suffered job shock' in their working lives, where they found a huge difference between what they had expected and the reality. IGD research shows that, once involved in the food and grocery industry, graduates appreciate the opportunities and scope for career development better than at the time they made their original career choices. It is addressing these communications issues with a tranche of measures, including working with universities and colleges promoting the range of opportunities available to help both sides get the best, most productive new staff member. The IGD is also looking at the challenge on the flip side, talking to employers about how to best cultivate and retain young talent. Its Race for Talent conference on September 10 will bring together recruiters from across the industry to share views and experience on crucial human resources issues before it is too late. A recent survey of more than 100 recruiters, Graduates in the Eyes of Employers 2002', from The Guardian and Park Human Resources, suggests two thirds of employers have already started looking to continental Europe for new talent, dissatisfied with the calibre of UK graduates and their lack of appropriate skills. Around 44% of employers do not believe that UK graduates are necessarily better employees than those staff with no degree and three years of experience. Reed Executive ce James Reed said skills shortages in graduates are set to become more marked with the gap between skilled employees and unskilled graduates widening. "There will be a growing mismatch between what members of the next generation want to do, what they are taught to do and what businesses and society require of them." And Graham Wright, strategy director at Park HR, said: "The research shows that a university education isn't providing the skills employers want. Organisations are looking for more rounded candidates, but there's only a small number of them." It will be business that will eventually have to address the skills mismatch by providing education and company universities. The innovative university set up by fast food chain McDonald's was originally not taken seriously, but it is meeting an important business need. Similar business initiatives will be vital if the skills gaps are to be addressed, and there will need to be considerable growth in training and education in the workplace over the next decade. JP Morgan vice president and head of graduate marketing Helen Bostock said not enough UK universities offer or support placement years, and the company feels that students from the UK are very much shielded from the real world. She told delegates at the Association of Graduate Recruiters conference that Europeans have work experience built into the education, giving them more practical knowledge. "Recruiting is no longer just UK wide and employers are looking across Europe. There is a disparity of skills between UK graduates and their European counterparts." Only 17% of employers surveyed thought graduates were better equipped for the workplace than non-graduates of the same age. However, more than three-quarters of graduates were recruited for their skills, future potential and adaptability to corporate culture. This was supported by statistics showing that more than half of all graduates move on to more senior positions within three years. Despite negative attitudes among employers, the Government claims that the potential to earn higher salaries will be enough of a draw to attract people into higher education. Graduates can command an earnings premium of 35% higher than the national average and the Government aims to have half of all 18-30-year-olds participating in higher education by 2010. lThere are still some places available for the Leading Edge convention on September 17. The whole day focuses on personal development and management skills. To be there for a fun packed, free day check out {{LEADING EDGE }}