Employers perceive broad learning as essential to long-term career success, according to new American study

  • Good oral communication seen as top skill for graduates by employers
  • Over 90 per cent of executives and HR managers more likely to recruit a graduate who has done an internship
  • Over 40 per cent of employers at non-profits say that they would be more likely to hire recent graduates who have done community-based learning

As students at Richmond, The American International University in London, begin the new academic year with Orientation Week this week, the University is sharing the results of an American study which highlights the importance of broad learning in the American tradition, a system practised at Richmond.

In the report (Fulfilling the American Dream: Liberal Education and the Future of Work) conducted by The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), oral communication was the most important skill sought among graduates by potential employers (cited by 80 per cent of executives and 90 per cent of human resources (HR) managers), followed by critical thinking, ethical judgment, working effectively in teams, working independently, self-motivation, written communication, and real-world application of skills and knowledge.   Only 15 per cent of those questioned (in a similar study for AAC&U in 2014) chose field-specific learning alone as the best preparation for long-term success.

The study found that participation in applied learning experiences, particularly internships or apprenticeships, gives graduates an edge.  Ninety-three per cent of US executives and 94 per cent of HR managers say that they would be more likely to hire a recent graduate who has held an internship or apprenticeship with a company or organization, including 52 per cent of executives and significantly more HR managers (60 per cent) who would be much more likely to do so.

Professor Lawrence Abeln, the newly appointed President of Richmond, said, “The results of this study are interesting not just for the US market but also the higher education sector both in the UK and internationally.  We know that the broad curriculum offered by an American style approach to university education is highly attractive to students but the report also underlines its strong appeal to US employers for the recruitment of graduates.

“Richmond is unique in combining an American liberal arts approach with UK higher education standards, which together empower our graduates with a strong competitive edge and open up more opportunities for them to find employment either in the UK or the US.”

Community-based learning and voluntary work is also an important part of studying at Richmond, it’s something which all undergraduate students undertake as part of their personal development.

It can also reap rewards for students when they graduate. The study found that employers at non-profit organisations would be more likely to hire recent graduates who have done community-based or service learning (41 per cent of non-profit executives and 43 per cent of non-profit HR managers versus 21 per cent of executives and 30 per cent of HR managers at private companies).

Professor Abeln continued, “There are numerous benefits of doing voluntary work in a structured way as part of a degree course.  It helps students develop a strong sense of personal and social responsibility, enhances self-understanding and prepares them to deal with complexity, diversity, and change.

“Doing voluntary work in the community is an important part of the liberal arts, encouraging students to become active citizens and developing their employability skills.”