What career-centric skills will students need in the future?

by Oct 7, 2019

One of the key issues for higher education is the employability of graduates, as they face a rapidly changing and a highly competitive employment sector. Last month at UTS we held the Careers event, Your Future in Science and Maths, with a lively discussion on employability: What are the key skills and qualities valued by employers? How do graduates successfully demonstrate these?

Research suggests that employability is:

“…a set of achievements- skills, understanding and personal attributes- that make graduates more likely to gain employment and be successful in their chosen occupations, which benefits themselves, the workforce, the community and the economy” (Yorke & Knight, 2006)

So what are the skills that are valued by employers? The Future of Jobs Report released by the World Economic Forum identified the top 10 skills of 2020 (see graph below). The report suggests that creativity will become one of the top three skills workers will need. With the avalanche of new products, new technologies and new ways of working, workers are going to have to become more creative in order to benefit from these changes.

Another key find was that while negotiation and flexibility are high on the list of skills for 2015, in 2020 they will begin to drop from the top 10 as machines, using masses of data, begin to make our decisions for us. Similarly, active listening – considered a core skill today – will disappear completely from the top 10. Emotional intelligence, which doesn’t feature in the top 10 today, will become one of the top skills needed by all.

Two lists side by side listing the top 10 skills in 2020 vs 2015

The issue then becomes how students can adapt to the future and acquire the skills necessary for the job market.  One way students can improve their employability and prepare for their career is through professional placements. Earlier this year, the Global Strategy Group (GSG) released a study concluding that university graduates just aren’t making the grade in today’s working world. The respondents zeroed in on the same problems—while many recent grads are book-smart, they’re lacking in professional experience and don’t have the professional skills necessary to succeed in the modern office.

These internship opportunities can give students an awareness around expectations required in their industry, business awareness and networking opportunities that can promote skills and capabilities important for employment. It can also help students develop key employability skills such as problem solving skills, initiative, interpersonal skills and critical thinking. Many students are seeing the benefit of these opportunities with the University Admissions Career Ready Graduate 2018 report finding that:

  • In 2017, 451,263 university students took part in 555,403 workplace experiences.
  • Work placements were the most common workplace experiences (43 per cent);
  • Universities also offered students the chance to do industry projects (23 per cent), fieldwork (10 per cent) and industry simulations (13 per cent).

It is important that graduates start to look at ways to develop their employability through acquiring industry specific skills and skills of the future in order to adapt to the changing workplace. At UTS Careers we provide a number of services that can assist in this process, along with support around attaining workplace experiences whilst studying.


Featured image courtesy of Unsplash

Gabrielle Foldes

Gabrielle Foldes

Science and Health Career Consultant

Gabrielle Foldes is the Science & Health Career Consultant with UTS Careers. With over 15 years’ experience in human resources, graduate and managerial recruitment, employee selection and career management, Gabrielle is passionate about assisting students in developing their professional identity.