Universities must teach better employability skills in course structures to help students develop key workplace competencies, according to research published today by the CBI and the National Union of Students (NUS).

The survey of 2,614 students found that more than half (57%) wanted universities to do more to help them get to grips with employability skills, such as teamworking, customer awareness and self-management, and two-thirds (66%) would like more support in developing these skills.

The findings follow last week’s publication of the 2011 education and skills survey by the CBI and training providers Education Development International, which showed that graduates perform better than school- and college-leavers on every measure of employability.

However, almost one-fifth (19%) of employers said that they were unimpressed by graduates’ problem-solving skills, while 20% found that graduates lacked team-working skills.

Susan Anderson, CBI director for education and skills, said: “Employability skills are the most important attributes that businesses look for in new recruits but graduates are currently falling short of employers’ expectations.

“Now we’ve developed a guide with the NUS to show how these skills can be gained not just by coursework, but by a whole host of other methods, such as participating in societies, volunteering and doing work experience.”

Aaron Porter, NUS national president, added: “Students are increasingly demanding of their institutions and quite rightly expect more in the way of information, support and resources to prepare them for life after university.”

The new guide, called Working towards your future, explains what employers are looking for in new recruits and provides practical tips to help students meet these requirements. The guide explains how employability skills can be developed through university courses, but also by other methods including participation in clubs and societies, volunteering in the community and by gaining work experience.