B-School Students Doubt Their Digital Skills for Industry 4.0

by Stacy Blackman Consulting, Jun 20, 2022

According to a recent survey from Highered, nearly a third of business school students fear they lack the right skills for future jobs. Also, almost 9 out of 10 now consider data analytics and search engine marketing as “entry-level” skill requirements. Not surprisingly, 71% of these same responders believe senior management poorly understands digital skills and Industry 4.0.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution—AKA Industry 4.0—refers to the way technologies such as machine learning, AI, and IoT are revolutionizing production. For MBAs poised to enter the job market, a lack of digital skills may hinder their prospects.

Highered asked 1,060 business school students for their views on getting a job in Industry 4.0, whether they felt prepared, and how their university/business school was supporting them.

When asked what emotion best summed up their job search, Highered said the top answer was “concerned” (30%), followed by “excited” (20%) and “interested” (16%). More women (18%) than men (13%) reported feeling concerned.

Students' top concerns about their preparation for Industry 4.0:

  • 30% worry about their knowledge of digital skills
  • 15% cite "data analysis and interpretation" as their number one concern
  • 13% considered their "understanding of new and emerging technology" a prime weakness

Respondents felt less worried about their marketing and HR skills, Highered noted. The survey also reveals that job seekers believe they need more than a degree to land their desired post-MBA role. They cited three ways business schools and universities could help them improve their career prospects:

  • 65% want to see "integration of employment skills into degree programmes"
  • 57% think more "opportunities for internships" would help
  • 55% want an increase in the "availability of consulting projects"

"Data Analytics is among one of the major skills gaps that we need for the future of work," higher education journalist Francesca Di Meglio recently shared with the SBC team. With the growing number of technology-focused and STEM career paths and the data science-focused skills required of today's leaders, the ability to demonstrate strong quant skills is paramount.

Meanwhile, the schools have responded with curriculum additions in machine learning, data analytics, blockchain, artificial intelligence, and automation. Observers predict a push and pull between the versatility of a general degree vs. having industry-specific specializations.

"Employers such as Microsoft, Audi and Alibaba have been developing Industry 4.0 practices for years, but it's clear that business school students feel unprepared for this new reality," said Dr. Amber Wigmore Alvarez, Chief Talent Officer at Highered.

"We know that the skills needed in many roles have a shorter lifespan than ever before. If we are going to help them find jobs in the new digital economy, they need career development and training that's tailored to employer requirements but is also personalised to their level of skills. Partnerships between universities, business schools and employers will be critical."

One silver lining of the survey

Despite the pandemic, the survey found that students have a sunnier outlook on their job prospects than in years past. Nearly half (49%) reported feeling more confident about securing employment than a year ago. And perhaps more reassuring is new research recently published in Harvard Business Review. Those authors argue that, rather than digital literacy, future leaders need to focus on traits such as adaptability, emotional intelligence, and curiosity to succeed in the digital era.

For this survey, Highered polled 1,060 business school students (undergraduates and postgraduates), representing 111 nationalities living in 96 countries. 50.5% of the respondents were female, and 48.3% were male.

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