Robots Need Not Apply: Uniquely Human Skills for the Workforce

Career Readiness
Career Readiness, Soft Skills

Article Summary

  • 65% of all students feel that finding a job today is more difficult than it was for their parents.
  • One out of four students believes that tech will eventually replace all available jobs.
  • 72% of employers say gaining work experience prior to graduation is the single most important thing students can do.
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Within the next few months, college graduates will be hunting for jobs, but are they losing out to technology? Automation is replacing positions at organizations across the globe, causing real fear among students who are deeply concerned about post-grad career options.

In late 2018, research firm Morning Consult partnered with Cengage to survey more than 650 employers and over 1500 students to reveal detailed perceptions about the impact of technology on the job market. The results were eye-opening.

Sixty-five percent of all students feel that finding a job today is more difficult than it was for their parents, and one out of four students believes that tech will eventually replace all available jobs.

Does that mean we are facing the possibility of robot-filled firms in our near future? According to the majority of employers surveyed, the answer is no.

The Automated Era Breeds Opportunity for Recent Grads

Employers say that automation actually provides candidates with new opportunities to showcase uniquely human skills. The hiring manager who peruses a recent grad’s resume is truly interested in skills like communication, listening and thinking critically.

By contrast, skills that can be easily automated (like memory or performing repeated tasks) aren’t in high demand. As a result of adopting new technologies, Eighty-eight percent of employers are interested in hiring more candidates who demonstrate both interpersonal and problem-solving skills.

Are Job Candidates Getting the Qualifications They Need?

Unfortunately, job candidates simply aren’t measuring up: seventy-three percent of these same employers describe the process of finding qualified applicants as very or somewhat difficult—and when considering candidates that have been recently hired, more than one in three employers feel that institutions have not properly prepared them.


72 percent of employers say gaining work experience prior to graduation is the single most important thing students can do.


So, what do employers propose to help students prepare for the workforce and hone the skills that hiring managers demand? Seventy-two percent say gaining work experience is the single most important thing students can do. This means prior to graduation, students should be searching for part-time jobs to get real-world experience that will serve them once they graduate and launch their careers. A few employers are even offering on-the-job education: thirty-seven percent say they’ve invested a significant amount of time in training new hires to acquire the skills necessary for their organization.

The role of educators in helping students hone their uniquely human skills is crucial. Instructors who deliberately guide students to listen to one another, communicate clearly and think critically will build better employees for the workforce of tomorrow—because no matter where the future takes us, we can all agree the human touch will remain a valuable asset.

Find out more about what key skills matter to employers in our research into soft skills.