Universal Mentors Association

AI boom creates concerns for recent graduates, study finds


More than half of recent graduates question whether they are properly prepared for the workforce in light of the rise of artificial intelligence, a survey finds.

In addition to the 52 percent who question their preparedness, 46 percent feel threatened by the new technology, according to Cengage Group’s “2023 Graduate Employability Report.”

This year’s survey of 1,000 recent graduates—from both degree and nondegree programs—added new questions about AI, exploring its effect on hiring, workforce readiness and a shift to skills-based hiring. The survey also gathered responses from 1,000 employers.

While 55 percent of graduates said AI could never replace their jobs, in contrast, 57 percent of employers said entry-level jobs, or even entire teams, could be replaced by leveraging AI. More than half of employers (60 percent) said new hires will need to strengthen or develop digital skills due to AI.

The value of a college degree could be waning for both graduates and employers. Half of the surveyed employers stated they required a degree for entry-level positions, down from 62 percent in 2022. Instead, there is more of a focus on soft skills—such as communication, emotional intelligence and negotiation—and the candidate’s ability to work with AI. Two-thirds of employers said they are prioritizing “uniquely human” skills.

There is also more of a preference for skills training credentials. Among employers, nearly 40 percent said skills training credentials are most important, while only 19 percent ranked a college degree as most important.

The shift follows a government move in 2020 that removed degree requirements for many federal positions. Instead, the positions focus on assessment- and skills-based evaluations.

Amid these changes, graduates are feeling more confident when applying to entry-level jobs, which the study suggests could be a result of the loosening of degree requirements. Roughly one-third of those surveyed felt underqualified for their role, down from roughly half of those surveyed in 2021 and 2022.

However, recent graduates did cite an issue with most higher education institutions’ ability to teach employability skills. In 2023, 43 percent of students said their degree program taught them the necessary skills for their first job, down 20 percent from 2022.

There’s also been a shift with institutions working with businesses, according to the survey. Fewer than a quarter of businesses surveyed said they found their new hires through higher education institutions, and 35 percent of students said they had to find their internships themselves.


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