October 2017


What do enterprises think about the employability and skills of recent graduates? The employers project

Sandra Nieto Viramontes - Project manager of Internationalisation and Knowledge Generation Department

Do universities in Catalonia adapt programmes of study according to the requirements of enterprise and industry? Do recent graduates have skills gaps or deficits? Which programmes are the best in terms of employability? Do university-industry/enterprise relations help to improve the employability of recent graduates? These are just some of the issues that will be covered by the second survey in the Employers project, work on which has recently been started by AQU Catalunya with the support of Obra Social “La Caixa”.

The main objective of the two-year project is to gather the opinions of employers regarding the employability and skills of the recent graduate population in Catalonia through surveys of companies (industry and enterprise). The ultimate aim is to build links between higher education institutions and the labour market and to enhance the employability of graduates (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Relationship between the issues covered by the survey and the usefulness of this information to universities and other higher education institutions



Theemployers survey constitutes a source of information that complements other surveys undertaken by AQU Catalunya (Figure 2), including the graduate employment outcomes survey and the satisfaction survey, which gather information on the relationship (match) between university degree courses and the quality of the transition to employment from the point of view of graduates.

Figure 2: Impact on universities and the labour market of sources of information provided by surveys carried out by AQU Catalunya.



Characteristics of the second survey in the Employers project

The new survey in the Employers project gives continuity to the first survey, which was also funded by Obra Social “La Caixa”, carried out by AQU Catalunya between 2014-2016 (click on this link to consult the documents published at the end of the first survey).

It is a survey of companies (industry and enterprise) located in Catalonia. As in the first survey, the findings will not be representative of the structure of industry and enterprise in Catalonia because the company database is mostly made up of companies registered with university careers and employment services (meaning that companies with skilled workers will be over-represented in the study). In spite of this, companies that have hired recent graduates are the ones that are consistent with the purpose of the project.

online surveys, will be the method used for gathering information, with telephone back-up afterwards for subjects for which there is a small achieved sample size.

Given the good reception given to the findings of the sectoral surveys in the first study (employers in the public sector, education, medicine and nursing), the design of this second survey is being extended to surveys adapted to sixteen sectors. It also includes the general survey that will gather information on the opinions of enterprises not covered by the specific sectors (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Details of the Employers project surveys


There are different methodologies for identifying skill requirements in the production sector of a given region (Figure 4). Given that each has its own advantages and limitations, the decision to make one kind of analysis or another will in practice depend on the main aim of the study.

Figure 4: Main methodologies for analysing skill requirements in the production sector

Surveys (general and/or sectoral) Gathering of the opinions of companies regarding the importance and lack of skills of their employees. Ex: UKCES: Employer Skills Survey
Big data Real-time analysis of the skills required by companies in job offers published on the Internet. Ex: Wollybi: Italian Labour Market Digital Monitor
CEDEFOP: Big data analysis from online vacancies
Forecasting/Exploratory Application of different methods for predicting future skill requirements. Ex. CEDEFOP: Forecasting skill demand and supply
UKCES: The future of work: jobs and skills in 2030

The methodology used in the Employers project is based on sectoral surveys,the advantages of which, over others, are as follows:

  • Sectoral differentiation enables survey design to be adapted to the particular characteristics of each sector so thatskills specific to professional practice in each sector can be included, together with questions about sectoral forecasting .
  • It also provides for identification of the degrees of graduates hired by companies in each sector. These findings can then be passed on to the coordinators of the corresponding programmes for sectoral analysis purposes.
  • In order to maximise the impact of the survey findings dissemination of the findings will also be at sectoral level. The bringing together of programme coordinators and employers in sectors in which graduates are employed creates synergies that lead to the enhanced employability of recent graduates.


The project consists of the following 3 stages:



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