Most employers demand 2.1 degree of applicants - survey

Degree grades the biggest determinant of whether graduates secure a job interview

The most common minimum standard among all employer organisations was to have at least a 2.1 degree.  Some 69 per cent of indigenous firms and 71 per cent of foreign firms had this requirement. File photograph: Reuters

The most common minimum standard among all employer organisations was to have at least a 2.1 degree. Some 69 per cent of indigenous firms and 71 per cent of foreign firms had this requirement. File photograph: Reuters

 

Some 70 per cent of employers expect at least a 2.1 degree from job applicants, a major new survey shows.

The study, published on Wednesday by the Department of Education and Skills, found the grade students achieved in their degree was the biggest determinant of whether they were called for a job interview.

However, employers surveyed for the report expressed lower levels of satisfaction with graduates from higher education than those from further education.

The latter were perceived to have stronger practical skills, business acumen and foreign language capabilities.

The survey of 383 domestic and multinational employers found 73 per cent had recruited recent graduates from higher education only, 3 per cent from further education only, and 24 from both sectors.

The most common minimum standard among all employer organisations was to have at least a 2.1 degree.

Some 69 per cent of indigenous firms and 71 per cent of foreign firms had this requirement.

In contrast, 36 per cent of respondents in both categories sought relevant work experience as a minimum standard.

Satisfaction with workplace attributes of third-level graduates was rated at 72 per cent and with personal attributes 87 per cent.

For further education and training graduates, the satisfaction ratings were higher at 82 per cent and 90 per cent respectively.

Notably, further education graduates had better employer satisfaction ratings for business acumen (62 per cent), entrepreneurial skills (54 per cent) and foreign language capability (64 per cent).

Satisfaction ratings

The satisfaction ratings for higher education graduates in these categories were 53 per cent, 48 per cent and 39 per cent respectively.

Further education graduates were also perceived to be stronger in “effective written communication”, while their higher education counterparts performed better in verbal communication, computer and technical literacy and numeracy.

Tony Donohoe, head of education policy at the employers’ group Ibec, said: “Given that entrepreneurship is a powerful driver of economic growth and job creation, the education system must support young people and adults to acquire skills required to both take up and create employment.”

While Ibec welcomed the overall satisfaction rates, he said it was worrying that 40 per cent of respondents indicated a shortage of skills that will be needed within the next five years including engineering, languages, ICT and specific quantitative skills.

Scope for collaboration

“The survey suggests that there is scope for much deeper collaboration between education and business,” Mr Donohoe added.

However, Minister of State for Skills, Research and Innovation Damien English said he was pleased to see that three-quarters of foreign employers believed there would be an adequate supply of graduates in the next three to five years.

The report was commissioned by the Higher Education Authority, SOLAS and Quality and Qualifications Ireland.

The companies surveyed had between them recruited 9,344 recent graduates from the higher education and further education sectors, accounting for an estimated 12 per cent of total graduate recruitment during the past two years.

The heavy emphasis placed by employers on a 2.1 degree has been linked to grade inflation, with colleges under pressure to ensure graduates are not deprived of employment opportunities.

More than 90 per cent of law graduates in both UCD and TCD, for example, achieve either a 2.1 or a 1st.