Youth unemployment in the EU has typically been two to three times higher than the general unemployment rate, but the financial crisis has pushed it ever higher, now approaching 25% across the European Union and more than 40% in some countries. Nonetheless, employers say they can’t fill positions because they can’t find people with the right skills, and according to a survey by McKinsey & Company researchers Mona Mourshed, Jigar Patel, and Katrin Suder, the main problems is a disconnect between educators, employers and potential hires.

EU

EU employers see a lack of ‘soft skills’

“Despite this availability of labor, employers are dissatisfied with applicants’ skills: 27 percent reported that they have left a vacancy open in the past year because they could not find anyone with the right skills. One-third said the lack of skills is causing major business problems, in the form of cost, quality, or time,” the researchers write. “They operate in parallel universes.”

The study found that while 74% of European education professionals thought that graduates were well-prepared for the real world, only 38% of graduates and 35% of employers felt the same way. Employers say there is “a particular shortage of soft skills such as spoken communication and work ethic,” according to the report, though it’s hard to know how someone’s work ethic can be fairly judged if they don’t have a job history.

Small businesses hardest hit

Small businesses have the most difficulty finding people they want to hire. The McKinsey report found that larger corporations are able to attract talented young people because of their reputation and have the resources to work with universities to recruit people with specific skills. Medium-sized companies may have more difficulty recruiting on name alone, but they also have more room in the budget to train recruits (though not all are willing to do this). Small businesses with tight budgets may not have the resources either to recruit aggressively or to train someone who isn’t a perfect fit straight out of university.

“This phenomenon is particularly acute in Greece, which has both very high rates of youth unemployment and a high reliance on small businesses as a source of employment,” the researchers write.