Understanding technology and business is key

By Claire West

Influential business leaders across the UK are calling for more graduates with advanced technology and business skills to help them use high-tech systems more effectively across their organisations.

According to a survey by ESRI UK, four in five (82 per cent) businesses think the ideal future manager has an equal understanding of both business and technology. Whilst business leaders' top priorities for their organisations are making processes more efficient (nominated by 73 per cent of businesses as important) and delivering more for less (66 per cent).

The survey of 200 business leaders across the public and private sectors showed that the skills they are looking for in future employees are critical thinking (nominated by 78 per cent of businesses leaders as key for graduates), advanced analytical skills (76 per cent), understanding and interpreting complex data (71 per cent), advanced technology skills (57 per cent) and understanding socio-economic environments (54 per cent) - all of which can be gained through a geography degree.

Nearly all (97 per cent) of employers said that they would like more employees with these core skills in their organisations. Also despite most firms (95 per cent) saying that location “such as access to skilled staff and proximity to customers“ is important to their success, only one in five (18 per cent) firms use key technologies such as Geographic Information Systems across their whole business. As a result, graduates who are able to illustrate an understanding of these technologies are increasingly sought after.

Richard Waite, Managing Director of the UK's leading Geographic Information Systems (GIS) provider ESRI UK, said: "Business leaders across the UK are telling us that they need more employees who can help them maximise key technologies such as GIS but who also understand their business needs in these tough economic times. It's clear from the survey that businesses can do more to help them achieve their top priorities but they need the right people to help them do that. Studying geography and learning how to utilise geographic information gives new employees many of the key skills that businesses are crying out for. As an industry it's our job to encourage more people to take up a geography-based career so that businesses and society as a whole can benefit."

The research was commissioned by ESRI UK, the UK's leading provider of geographic information systems (GIS) technology, to celebrate Geography Awareness Week. The week includes GIS Day on 17th November which aims to promote geography, inspire future careers and encourage the learning of new geographical skills by both teachers and pupils. Today's GIS Day research follows on from ESRI UK's recent partnership announcement with the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) to help support and promote the Society's Geography Ambassador Programme that encourages young people to plan careers in geography.

Dr Rita Gardner, Director of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), said: "It is encouraging to see that business leaders cite geography skills as a key attribute to greater employability in the graduate sector. The Society is working closely with schools and ESRI UK to inspire even more young people with the relevance and applications of geographical knowledge, skills and technology. With the help of businesses and universities, we hope to grow our support for tomorrow's geography professionals in getting a foot on the job ladder and a rewarding career."