*WINNER* Important Employability Skills of University Graduates as Perceived by Industry Leaders
Any university, regardless of the size of the institution, inherently takes upon itself the responsibility of cultivating the most employable college graduates possible. A university’s never-ending quest to stamp its impression upon various industries through their graduates is quintessential to its continuity and the success of its students. This study was conducted amongst 17 prominent, global employers in the agriculture and food industries (e.g. Chick-fil-A, John Deere, Perdue, Yanmar etc.) in order to magnify what qualities peak their interest as well as what strikes them as opportunities for improvement in recent college graduates. The perceived value of internships and international experiences were also evaluated. Responses were collected using qualitative research methods. Overall, integrity was the leading quality these employers desired by a significant margin followed by leadership potential and work ethic. Meanwhile, communication, initiative, cultural fit and goal-setting were four qualities these organizations report are currently lacking in new hires. All respondents acknowledged merit and value in having international experiences and personal qualities such as open mindedness, eagerness to learn and maturity were shared by the employers. Additionally, employers see international experiences as a means for enabling students to gain an appreciation for other cultures. Lastly, the majority of respondents stated that a multi-faceted internship should be required for all School of Agriculture students. The evidence presented has profound implications on the School of Agriculture curriculum - how it may be refined in order to produce students who obtain employment with minimal stress and post-graduation unemployment time.