AI Is Making College Grads Feel Less Prepared for the Workforce

Half of college and university graduates feel threatened by the growth of AI and question their readiness for the workforce.

Further, according to economists at Goldman Sachs, approximately two-thirds of occupations in the U.S. are likely to be impacted by AI-based automation. However, it should be noted that as emerging technologies have advanced, new career options have always opened up as a result.

In a new report, Cengage Group 2023 Graduate Employability Report: AI Joins the Workforce, notes that only 41% of graduates say their program of study taught them the skills they needed for their first job. This is down from 63% in 2022 making learners feel even more unprepared amid the current AI boom.

The survey found a quickly shifting landscape where many employers are prioritizing softer skills, such as emotional intelligence, communication, and a candidate’s ability to work with the help of artificial intelligence. 53% of employers say they cannot identify qualified candidates for many positions. Reducing two- and four-year degree requirements creates a larger applicant pool, making it easier to find candidates. Employers are moving to skills-based hiring and an awareness that people can acquire skills through alternative routes to higher education.

Key findings

The ground is shifting quickly with huge changes year over year. Graduates want higher education to be more accountable for skills training with the proliferation of AI.

  1. More than half of employers (57%) say certain entry level jobs – or even entire teams—could be replaced by AI. 68% say employees will need to reskill or upskill in the next 3-5 years because of emerging technology. 61% of graduates agree they will need to develop or strengthen their digital skills due to AI.
  2. Fewer employers say they require degrees for entry-level roles: 50% in 2023 compared to 62% in 2022. This results in graduates losing confidence that a degree is the best signal to employers of the skills they have: 23% in 2023, down from 32% in 2022.
  3. Graduates want higher education to make programs that have a greater connection to future employment. Internships, externships, and apprenticeships in 2023 were down to 47% from 63% and 35% of grads had to find the work experience themselves. 58% of graduates believe employers should work more closely with colleges of learning programs to help develop educational courses or learning programs that help grads get the skills needed to perform a job.
  4. AI is changing the way employers hire. 59% say that the growth of AI has prompted them to prioritize different skills. 66% say they are now looking for “uniquely human” skills and previous job experience.
  5. Graduates are worried about AI. Upskilling might be the answer. 65% of recent grads are eager for training alongside AI and other new tech platforms.

Cultivating human skills for an AI-enhanced workforce

In summary, the Cengage research found the employment landscape experiencing a seismic shift:

  • AI begins to reshape workloads, job requirements, and entire industries.
  • Whether two- and four-year degrees should remain the key metric to assess a candidates’ qualifications.
  • How new graduates can prepare to work alongside AI.
  • Which jobs prospects will AI take over so graduates can focus on learning/training to remain competitive in the job market.

Soft skills, like emotional intelligence, negotiation, and persuasion are lacking in today’s graduates. Employers are looking for them, because these uniquely human skills will become more important as AI takes on more rote tasks in the workforce.