What's more, young adults, higher education officials and other contend that employers provide conflicting information about the skills they value most in young employees.
While roughly two thirds of business leaders and recruiters say that "hard" technical skills and "soft" skills are equally important, a majority say they'd prefer to hire a recent graduate with industry-specific skills than a liberal arts graduate who needs to be trained first.
Further adding to the confusion, when asked to assess the importance of a comprehensive set of individual skills, business leaders put "soft" skills at the top of their list, ahead of traits like integrity, professionalism and a positive attitude.
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"Employers are sending some mixed messages," Larson said in an interview. "While they highly value the 'soft skills' that they believe are vital to long-term career success, they'd prefer to hire candidates with the industry-specific skills that help them hit the ground running, even if those candidates have less potential for future growth."
Ultimately, "we need to move beyond this false choice between hard and soft skills." Larson said that businesses and colleges can partner to help ensure that students gain the real-world experience and hard skills that employers require.
"That doesn't prevent us from also delivering the broad education that will set college graduates up for success in all facets of life, including their careers," she said.
The Bentley survey was conducted by KRC Research from Oct. 17 to Oct. 25 and involved 3,149 online interviews with business leaders, recruiters, higher education professionals, parents of students, junior and senior high school students, four-year college students, recent college graduates, and the general population.
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Economists and other experts offer many reasons why millennials have had a hard time finding suitable work these last few years. But many agree that inadequate preparation for the job market is definitely one of them.
"There is more demand for skill and education, and young people have less skill and experience than the typical worker," Rory O'Sullivan, the policy and research director of the Young Invincibles, an advocacy group, said recently. "We don't do a very good job of training them out of school to be prepped and ready to go."
A November 2012 study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation noted that in a weak job market, "the young adult workforce is usually the last to be hired and first to be fired. In down markets, when jobs are harder to find, many millennials make the choice to stay in school, lowering the participation rate."
"The recent trend of companies to outsource some traditional entry-level jobs may also be shifting the types of jobs offered, affecting employment rates for younger, less experienced candidates," the study said. "There is [also] more competition from more experienced workers for those companies that are hiring. More than half of baby boomers nearing retirement have delayed doing so, making it harder to find space for new workers."
—By The Fiscal Times