EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

Survey looks into employment expectations of students

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The first nationally representative study of Bulgarian students examined their satisfaction with the education received, their attitudes and expectations towards future employers, the areas in which they want to work and their preparation for the labour market. The study finds that remuneration, career development and possibilities for further vocational training are among the main factors influencing students’ choice of a future employer.

About the survey

Results from the first Bulgarian Students Professional Orientation and Motivation Survey were published in February 2008. The research was carried out in 2007 by Hewitt Associates, Monday Insight and the Business Foundation for Education (фондация на бизнеса за образованието, FBO).

The survey involved a sample of 12,477 students from 37 universities and 71 faculties or courses. This represents 10% of all students in Bulgaria and the survey is nationally representative in terms of universities and regarding students by year of education, course, region and sex. The survey was based on a structured questionnaire and was conducted through the university career centres and online.

Main findings

Satisfaction with education

The majority of students (86%) stated that they were satisfied or very satisfied with the education they receive. Students in areas of study more in demand in the labour market – such as banking, insurance and accountancy – were more likely to be satisfied. However, the students most dissatisfied with their education were found in two fields in particularly high demand – information technologies (IT) and engineering design. They considered the university programmes extremely outdated compared with the increasingly dynamic business practice in these areas.

The survey identified a trend of decreasing satisfaction in the later stages of education, with the students in their fourth year of study being the least satisfied (Figure 1). This group was also less optimistic about finding a job quickly (39%) than were students at the initial stage of higher education (59%).

Satisfaction with education (%)

Satisfaction with education (%)

Source: Bulgarian Students Professional Orientation and Motivation Survey, 2007

Preferred sectors and professional areas

The survey data indicate that students’ career preferences are oriented towards the most dynamically developing economic sectors or sectors with more secure employment conditions (see table). Marketing, engineering and finance are among the most desired professional areas. Among the top economic activities the students mentioned were: banking and finance, tourism, trade, public administration and IT.

Top economic activities and preferred professional areas (%)
Most preferred economic activities % Most preferred professional areas %
Banking and finance 24 Marketing 22
Tourism 19 Engineering 19
Trade 15 Finance 19
Public administration 14 Administration 17
IT 14 Human resources 16
Accountancy and administration 13 IT 15
Education 9 Sales 13

Note: Percentage of the students indicating this economic activity or professional area among their top three preferences.

Source: Bulgarian Students Professional Orientation and Motivation Survey, 2007

Motives for choosing employer

Remuneration (73%), career development (53%), possibilities for further vocational training (37%) and interesting work (29%) were among the leading motives identified by students in influencing their future choice of employer. However, some variations arose in the ranking of motives between students on different courses and at different stages of education (Figure 2).

Reasons for choosing employer (%)

Reasons for choosing employer (%)

Source: Bulgarian Students Professional Orientation and Motivation Survey, 2007

In areas of study where students had better prospects of finding a first job, remuneration tended to be less of a motivating factor in choosing a potential employer, with ‘good management’ and possibilities for continuing training becoming more important.

Students in engineering, biotechnology and accountancy were most likely to be motivated by remuneration, while the students in the humanities, tourism, IT and management tended to be more motivated by interesting work and opportunities for training and professional development.

Students’ preparation for working life

On their own assessment, many students lack the basic computer and language skills required by business. Only 43% of the students surveyed in the capital city of Sofia assessed their foreign language skills as high and 39% considered that they had a high level of computer skills; the equivalent figures were 33% and 39% respectively among students outside the capital.

Just 28% of the students had undertaken a training placement connected with the subject they study, while 60% had never participated in any training placement. The main reasons they gave for not participating were lack of information (41%) and the fact that most universities do not require such placements (27%).

The lack of practical skills and competencies highlighted by the survey is seen as an issue for both the educational system and business. Companies, according to the research, still underestimate training placements for students as a valuable tool for recruiting suitable staff and for increasing students’ qualifications.

Commentary

The survey findings confirm the criticism of many companies regarding the lack of practical skills among students and the gap between higher education and labour market demands. They also indicate that employers are not very active in providing training placements and information for students, or in continuing vocational training (BG0707029I). The findings will support future changes in the educational system aiming to bring it closer to business and to increase the employability of young people (BG0709029I). The research also provides information that could be used by businesses in seeking more relevant ways to attract and retain young workers.

Nadezhda Daskalova, Institute for Social and Trade Union Research

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