Academic Literature

China’s Skills Gap – Causes a sizeable share of graduates to take up jobs unrelated to their studies

The skills mismatch, defined as the difference between skills demanded by employers and those available in the market, can be captured using the MyCOS survey data based on the answers of over 150 000 graduates in 2013, six months after graduation. The survey asked graduates to judge whether a certain skill type is important for their job, whether it is necessary to perform their job and whether they acquired that skill by the time they graduated. The 35 skills are classified into five broader categories: practical, analytical, managing, critical thinking and understanding and communication.

When ranking skills by importance, soft skills such as management and communications ranked among the top ones. For university graduates, speaking, negotiation, persuasion and active learning are considered more important than practical skills such as programming. Vocational college graduates rank programming first, but the following skills in the ranking are similar to those of university graduates: speaking, negotiation, persuasion and judgement and decision making. Maths, monitoring and repairing are considered by both types of graduates among the least important skills in the present marketplace.

The skills acquired by the time of graduation do not appear to match the skills necessary to perform the job. The difference between the self-reported acquired skills at the time of graduation and the skills needed in their job six months after graduation provides a gauge of the mismatch in the graduate labour market. More specifically, the difference between the averages (weighted by the skill level) of the extent of necessity and the extent of acquired skills at school captures the skills gap. According to this measure, university graduates experienced the greatest mismatch in programming, followed by persuasion, management of personnel resources, operations analysis, operation monitoring and negotiation (Figure 1). Vocational college graduates also felt their programming skills deficit is the most acute, followed by persuasion, management of personnel resources, technology design and equipment maintenance.

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Mismatches cause a sizeable share of graduates to take up jobs unrelated to their studies

Graduates very often end up in professions unrelated to their major (31% of university and 38% of vocational college graduates) partly because there are not sufficient openings related to their major (16% of university and 12% of vocational college graduates who start a profession different from their major)  or because they cannot reach the requirement for jobs related to their majors (11% of university and 13% of vocational college graduates who take up positions unrelated to what they studied). This indicates that higher education institutions lag behind market demand: on the one hand they continue to train people in subject areas where market demand is limited and on the other hand they do not fully equip their students with the skills required for positions related to their studies.

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