Less than half of young Europeans consider themselves well prepared to enter the job market

Preparing the New Generation for the Future of Work. A survey of European youth, employers and education actors

The author(s)

  • Stéphane Zumsteeg Public Affairs, France
  • Amandine Lama Affairs, Ipsos France
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Paris, France – February 21, 2019. On the occasion of WISE@Paris taking place today at the Palais de Tokyo, WISE (World Innovation Summit for Education) and its partner JobTeaser, the European leader in career guidance and the recruitment of young talent, have asked IPSOS to conduct an extensive survey about the future of work in Europe and how it will impact the future of learning. The survey was conducted in France, Germany, Spain, the United-Kingdom and Belgium.

Almost 4 out of 5 young Europeans are optimistic about the future of work (78%). The Germans are the more enthusiastic (81%) and the French the least (72%). Recruiters (86%) and education actors (74%) share their optimism.

Technological progress (eg tools powered by AI) is what fuels young people’s optimism about the future of work: 82% of those surveyed consider it a positive factor.

Despite what recruiters think, the level of salary is the main criteria for young adults when choosing a job, beyond work-life balance, equal career progression and a purpose-driven job.

Less than 1 in 2 young people considers themselves well prepared to enter the job market (48%) and the youth would like to be better supported (88%) as they define their professional choices.

The French youth are the most critical of the education system, only 37% think their education system prepares them well to enter the job market, followed by the British (43%) and the Spanish (44%).

Regarding the preparation of young people to their first job, the European Youth, consider that schools and universities are the main responsible actors (60%).

88% of the young Europeans would like to be better supported (through teachers advice or career counselling) when they define their professional choice.

Education actors are also doubtful of the performance of their respective education systems: Nearly half of the educators surveyed think that the education students receive does not prepare them to enter the job market. Furthermore, almost 4 education actors in 10 (38%) consider themselves poorly equipped to prepare students for jobs that they think will be in demand in 10 years.

Recruiters tend to largely agree with this idea: 77% of them believe that their country’s education system is not preparing young people to enter the job market, and 72% that it is not preparing them well for the future of work either. In this context, it is not surprising that a large majority of recruiters (90%) considers that businesses should have an input in how higher education institutions are preparing students for the future of work. All three populations also consider that vocational schools are the institutions that prepare young people the best for the future of work (78% of young Europeans, 77% of recruiters and 77% of education actors).

Soft skills, human qualities and adaptability are the skills that are most in demand. On the one hand, a majority of young Europeans have the feeling that employers generally give too much importance to having a diploma. On the other hand, recruiters state that they believe soft skills are what are decisive today. 96% say they pay attention to job applicants’ soft skills, and 58% say they pay as much attention to their soft skills as to their hard skills or academic background. More generally, all three populations consider soft skills or human qualities (empathy, openness, ability to work with others) necessary to preparing for the working world, more so than professional training during school.

Interestingly, young Europeans consider that computing skills (including coding and the ability to interact with AI) will be the most important skills for work in the next 10 years: 44% cite them as the most important skill to develop, compared to 26% for recruiters and 27% for educators. It follows that they also consider computer science to be the most important subject to teach at school in the coming years, whereas recruiters attribute the most importance to foreign languages, and education actors to ethics. Recruiters also have stronger expectations concerning two key competencies: ability to self-train and flexibility/ adaptability—nearly two thirds believe the latter will be the most important skill to have.

While young Europeans, education actors and recruiters all consider digital badges and certifications as good tools by which to certify certain skills, they believe these will never replace traditional degrees, especially as recruiters still consider university degrees to be more important than employer or online learning certifications. That being said, recruiters rate the likelihood that they will hire applicants with relevant work experience but no certification or degree an average 6.8 on a scale from 0 (very unlikely) to 10 (very likely), compared to a 5.4 for applicants with a university degree from another field than the one relevant for the job.

Traditional degrees remain a key factor for employment but the higher education system’s ability to integrate job preparation in the curriculum is clearly essential to maintaining its relevance and the quality of the preparation it provides for the future of work.


More details to be find in the downloadable documents attached to this article.

The author(s)

  • Stéphane Zumsteeg Public Affairs, France
  • Amandine Lama Affairs, Ipsos France