Are graduates less engaged?

by Cameron Edmond16 Sep 2013

Although armed with skills in critical thinking and an understanding of the work at hand, university graduates aren’t guaranteed to be more engaged than their non-academic counterparts, research from Gallup has found.

In the US, it was found that 28% of workers with undergraduate degrees were engaged in the workforce, compared to 32% of those who had completed high school, and 34% among those who hadn’t completed high school.

Other variations sat in between, such as those who had completed technical/vocational school (30%), those with ‘some college’ background (29%) and those who had undertaken postgraduate work (30%).

However, higher education graduates were less likely to be actively disengaged (17%) compared to high school graduates (19%).

The reasons for this lower level of engagement may be due to the expectations graduates have coming into the workforce, as well as a lack of guidance given to students in regards to finding their strengths.

“The key driver of college graduates being less engaged is that they are much less likely than everyone else to say they have an opportunity to ‘do what they do best every day,’” Brandon Busteed, executive director of Gallup Education, said. “Something about college isn’t working – it appears it doesn’t do a good enough job at bringing students closer to figuring out what they are best at.”

Although US-based, the results come at a time when rates of all forms of qualifications in those aged between 15-64 are increasing. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), those with non-school qualifications increased to 59% in May 2012, compared to 47% in 2001 (25-34 years increased from 59% to 72%).

Those with bachelor degrees or above increased from 17% to 25% in the same period.

While still a requirement for many positions, the lack of entry-level openings for university graduates in Australia has been met with frustration by many, with 24-year-old graduate Georgia Leaker penetrating mainstream press earlier this year about her struggles to find employment.

“In the past six months, despite the hundreds of job applications I've sent, I've had only four interviews. Two were retail and they chose younger, cheaper applicants. The other two offered pay packets under minimum wage. I didn't get any of them,” Leaker wrote in an article for The Sydney Morning Herald.

HC has previously reported on the scepticism surrounding University graduates entering the HR industry.


Does your organisation employ both graduates and those without degrees? Do you find measurable differences in levels of engagement?


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