The Student Skill Sets of the Future

By Nataly Kehyayan

Landing an internship has been extra challenging this year in a job market that was already competitive for students and recent graduates. In fact, more than 50% of graduates feel less confident in their job search this year and 33% are concerned about their chances of breaking into their preferred industry. Unemployment in Canada for the ages between 20 and 24 rose from 8.3% in February 2020 to 14.6% this year.

Internship experience can have a major positive impact on one’s career after graduation. According to a US-based report by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), 56% of students who participate in internships are able to return as full-time employees after graduating. This number can differ across industries. Almost 80% of recent graduates who are employed at one of the Big Four accounting firms are returning interns or have other internship experience. 

To remain competitive and employable in the post-COVID market, there are certain skills that will be more relevant and of interest than others. When we look at the outlook of the job market in the next 10 years, according to McKinsey’s analysis, social and emotional skills will increase in demand by 29% while tech skills like IT and programming will require an additional 48% of employee work hours. 

Adaptability will also become a more appealing aspect of one’s skill set. In major economies, up to 10% (or 1 in 16 workers) of the workforce will need to transition to new occupations. As we’ve discussed in a previous article, automation and a shift in essential knowledge will shape the workforce of the future. Other skills highlighted by Forbes to be in demand include creativity and innovation, data literacy, critical thinking, and leadership. 

Even prior to the pandemic, many employers were concerned about the existing knowledge gap between skills needed in the market and those students had a competency of. To get a better understanding of these shortcomings, it helps to become familiar with skills highlighted in job descriptions of interest. To start developing some of these high-demand skills, the majority of the effort and learning process will have to be self-directed by students who want to customize their skill sets according to their goals. A great starting point could be online training databases like LinkedIn Learning (Lynda), which is available for most university students in Ontario. 

Overall, landing jobs for this summer promises to be a difficult task for many students as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reshape the business world. Students will need to become more adaptable and self-taught in order to ensure their job outlook is brighter.

Photo by Saulo Mohana on Unsplash

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