By Daniel Hunter

Research commissioned by totaljobs.com and the Association of Graduate Recruiters has revealed that 48% of HR professionals report a shift away from graduate recruitment towards apprenticeships. Only 14% of those surveyed had noticed no such change in recruitment methods.

The change in recruitment and training is being driven, in part, by the challenge employers face in finding the right skills needed for entry level positions. Six in ten (57%) firms reported that they struggled to fill vacancies. A third (34%) of employers claimed the skills gap was most acute in technical ability, with IT, manufacturing and research and development areas most in need.

Over a quarter (27%) of those survey cited apprenticeships as crucial to addressing the deficit in skills; a quarter want to see business skills embedded within school education; and a further 18% called for degrees more appropriate for the world of work.

“With government funding available for firms that run apprenticeships, it is clear that employers are taking on and helping train entry level staff as a way of addressing a chronic shortage of skills," Graduate Director at totaljobs.com, Mike Fetters, said.

“Too many of those we spoke to reported that the graduate applications they received were simply not up to standard. The organisations that needed employees with so-called STEM skills said they struggled finding enough graduates with appropriate degrees. Others said that recent university leavers lacked work experience, and the soft skill this brings. In such an environment, it is perhaps unsurprising that companies are looking to take on staff earlier to shape them for the roles required.”

Whilst the dearth of technical ability was bemoaned by more employers than any other, the lack of interpersonal skills and work experience (32% and 31% respectively) were common issues that companies found when recruiting graduates.

Daniel Sassen from Envy Post Production, which is based in London, explained when he was interviewed for the research: “Time and time again we find that when we headhunt and bring people in they just don’t have the right enthusiasm or client skills. It’s those soft skills that are most important to us when we’re trying to run a five-star establishment. It's much easier to teach anyone with enthusiasm and good client skills the technical skills required within our industry.”

The implications of the research were debated at an event in central London last night, with a panel made up of representatives of employers and academic institution answering questions from an audience of recruiters.

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