I was interested to read a report by Jack Grimston in the Sunday Times on 1st August under the headline “Top firms forced to reject ‘barely literate’ graduates”. What amused me is that anyone should find this surprising! For years, schools have paid insufficient attention to the teaching of good English, and most university academics simply do not have the time to correct the spelling, punctuation and grammar of essays written by students.
The report commented that:
- “Waitrose and other blue-chip employers are struggling to fill graduate trainee schemes, despite receiving thousands of applications, because candidates fail to fill in forms properly and sometimes seem barely literate”
- “Will Corder, UK recruitment adviser at Kimberly-Clark, the manufacturer of brands such as Kleenex and Andrex, said his company had been able to recruit only eight graduate trainees, fewer than in previous years. One candidate, asked how he or she had developed leadership skills, replied: “At church Im [sic] in charge of some organisation.” Corder said: “Surprisingly, it is particularly bad among those doing master’s degrees — bad grammar, bad spelling and they do tend to be very, very verbose and say very little”
- A shortage of qualified university and school leavers is holding back the economic recovery, according to early findings by the Institute of Directors in a poll of members.“A surprising number have vacancies they are unable to fill,” said Mike Harris, the institute’s head of skills, who will present his findings to Vince Cable’s business department. “They cite lack of skills and bad attitude. They are flagging up clearly that it is a real struggle to find workers and this is holding back recovery.”
- “Recruiters complain of applicants unable to spell company names, answer simple questions or provide information instead of vacuous buzzwords”
This is a damning indictment of the British higher education system. Whilst I would be one of the last to say that a university education should purely be about providing skilled employees for top firms, it is critically important that academics listen to what employers say. The message is clear: universities are turning out graduates who often seem barely literate, and more worryingly still who have a poor attitude to the workplace. Surprise, surprise!