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Half of Employers Don’t Think Students Have the Right Soft Skills, making Mentoring More Important than Ever

When writing another blog, I had a general conversation with Jo Haddrick from Napier University about the role of mentoring in preparing students for the business world. We discussed the challenges faced by students in learning how to operate in a corporate environment and having realistic expectations – and how mentoring can help bridge this gap.

In a recent blog from the Institute of Student Employers (ISE), they state, “The 2017 ISE Development Survey highlighted that half of employers think graduates don’t have the soft skills they expect them to have, with key gaps including their ability to communicate with others, negotiate or work effectively in a commercial environment.” From a university perspective, this is where employer-student mentoring schemes and online mentoring platforms play a role.

Connecting a mentor who has some experience in working life, with a student, can help students learn how to communicate in both verbal and written form in a professional manner. An example Jo mentioned is that through communicating through the online mentoring platform, MentorNet, and setting up meetings with someone in a business environment, they learn how to adjust their language to suit the business world. Examples include the removal of smileys and shortened, abbreviated, or casual words. Both in setting up meetings and having the meetings themselves, these skills are being passed on. And they are an important thing to highlight to mentors to pick up on.

Gaining a realistic insight into the world of work is another advantage. For many students, it can be daunting considering what work is really like, if you have little or no insight. If parental experience is also not strong in this area, it can make it even harder for many students to really grasp how to best prepare, plan and make decisions for it. Gaining a realistic view of different roles, and understanding that you often have to start at the bottom and work up, is all the kind of experience that can be gained by being mentored by someone who is in the world of work.

One other area that is mentioned as a challenge in the ISE annual reports is for students who get a placement with a company actually to turn up. Many are simply failing to do so and not telling the company until just weeks before. Buddying up through mentoring schemes, between employers and students who are due to join many months later, is one way that can be used to address this. It helps keep the link and bond between the student and the company they will join and to get more actively involved in the culture of the company.

With survey results showing that soft skills are often lacking and yet highly important, it is clearly time for employers and universities to work together. They can help build the softer skills of students, prepare them for the real world of work and communication and help them connect with the companies they will be joining. All high-impact activity from the many student mentoring schemes being run around the country.