What skills do employers seek in graduates?

Using online job posting data to support policy and practice in higher education

Employers increasingly reach job seekers through online job postings, particularly for jobs requiring a higher education qualification. Job postings available online provide a rich source of real-time and detailed data on the qualifications and skills sought by employers across industries, occupations and locations. Using a sample of over 9 million job postings in four US states (Ohio, Texas, Virginia and Washington), this paper explores three questions. How does employer demand for graduate skills vary geographically, within and among occupations? For graduates in a general study field without a dedicated career vocational pathway, like sociology, what occupational clusters show evidence of employer demand, and what skills are sought? Given the high demand in the field of information and communications technology (ICT), are employers looking for ICT specialists open to hiring graduates from study fields other than ICT? We find evidence of variation in occupational demand, and to some extent in skill demand, within occupational clusters across the four states. We identify three occupational clusters where sociology graduates are in most demand, with distinct skill profiles. We also find that, when filling ICT positions, a notable share of employers considers recruiting graduates from other fields of study while requiring those graduates have the right technical transferable skills. Job posting data, we conclude, hold promise to complement existing labour market information systems and aid educators and policy makers in aligning labour demand and educational offerings. If analysed and disseminated effectively, such data could also assist students and workers in making learning and career decisions, for instance by identifying opportunities to build their own non-traditional path into high-demand, high-paying ICT occupations.

Available from October 13, 2020