Future GTA jobs rest on interpersonal skills and experience, says study

Faced with chronically low productivity levels and an urban economy in flux, GTA employers are more inclined to hire post secondary graduates with workplace-ready skills acquired through a combination of classroom theory and job-related learning, says a recent study commissioned by Toronto’s George Brown College.

According to the recent Northstar Research Partners report, the most attractive graduates for hiring have a strong focus on interpersonal skills – especially the ability to communicate with people of different cultures, teamwork, customer service skills, oral communication skills, and a strong work ethic. Half of those surveyed also ranked job-related experience – such as field or co-op placement – as extremely or very important.

Contrary to longstanding stereotypes about college education, almost 80 per cent of employers also said they felt college graduates were equally or better prepared for the workplace compared to university students. In fact, 27 per cent of respondents said college graduates were better prepared.

These numbers come on the heels of recent reports showing low worker productivity levels in Canada compared to its G8 counterparts. They also come at a time of an economic downturn, an under-employed immigrant population and a projected vacuum of qualified workers as baby boomers exit the workforce.

“Canadian colleges, like George Brown, have been closely aligned with industry and business in developing curriculum that meets the current and evolving socioeconomic realities facing many municipalities,” said Anne Sado, president of George Brown College. “Industry partnerships are of utmost importance to us and with nine out of 10 George Brown College graduates successfully landing full-time employment within six months of graduation our focus is obviously paying dividends for employers and students alike.”

Asked how colleges could best meet their needs, the vast majority of employers called for an increase in field education or co-op with more emphasis on English literacy, oral and written communication, areas in which colleges such as George Brown have excelled at delivering.

“Supplementing applied learning with internships, co-op placements and field placements is critical to developing curriculum designed to get students the jobs they want and employers the professionals they need to maximize productivity,” said Sado. “An academic strategy that integrates these skills will enable graduates to be truly workplace ready, rather than focusing exclusively on either technical or theoretical preparedness.”