Daily gripe: Graduates want to work, not train

The results of the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) bi-annual survey released yesterday highlight what many commentators have been saying for several months: there simply aren’t enough graduate jobs around. While the survey reveals that there are some 69 graduates applying for each position, this compounded by the fact that – like it or not – graduates are by-and-large simply ill-equipped with the skills needed to ‘make it’ in today’s working environment.

At risk of being shunned by my peers on this one, let me explain where I’m coming from.

In addition to being the lead careers advice and guidance writer for a number of the UK’s top job boards I also handle the public relations for a choice selection of high profile recruitment consultancies who proactively seek out recently qualified graduates. And the feedback I receive from them in terms of the lack of skills that the majority – yes the majority – of graduates have is worrying at best.

We can bemoan the fact that employers expect a 6.9% drop in graduate vacancies and that the average number of applications for each graduate vacancy now stands at 69, compared to 49 last year and 31 in 2008, but unless graduates are equipped with the skills they need to be competitive and position themselves as a valuable asset to an organisation then the problem will persist. This calls for a revamp of the careers services within the universities themselves.

If you lose your job you have to wait upwards of six weeks before you are offered support by the Government to update and acquire new skills and boost your chances of job success. Similarly recently qualified graduates are provided with support via the likes of GO (in Wales) who offer free training that aims to provide them with the skills and support needed to help gain graduate employment – but not until AFTER graduation. This is so very very wrong. 

When I was at university the majority of my peers expected to graduate to work. Yet today’s graduates undertake their degree, graduate, train, and then find a job while their student debt continues to escalate and the UK economy suffers from a prolonged skills shortage. Despite criticism that exams are getting easier and standards in education are slipping – which is quite frankly a tiresome and unfounded argument – the fact is that contemporary students are actually brighter than what the media gives them credit for. But while their academic ability is beyond reproach they lack the skills needed for the modern era.

In May High Fliers reported that 36 per cent of graduates from the class of 2010 believe they will either start a graduate job or be looking for a graduate job after university while 45% of university leavers describing prospects for new graduates as “very limited”. And more than a quarter (26%) say they plan to continue their studies – the highest level seen since the survey was first conducted in 1995. So what does this say? Yes some will consider that a Master’s, for example, will enhance their CV credentials but all the qualifications in the world will not arm graduates with the skills they so badly need.

It is my view that universities must take a greater responsibility for the career prospects of their students. Undergraduates need to become more savvy about the demands and competitive nature of modern business and work with their careers services departments to acquire as many of these skills as possible, with skills training sessions becoming part of their timetable from the second year of their studies. Employers can afford to cherry-pick the candidates they want and those graduates who already have a number of the skills required for the advertised position will invariably find their application swiftly positioned at the top of the ‘slush’ pile.

About yourcareermatters
CareerMatters was founded as part of MacKenzie-Cummins Communications in 2006 by Paul MacKenzie-Cummins MICG (Member Institute of Careers Guidance), regarded as one of the UK's leading career's advice and guidance writers and specialist PR consultant for the UK recruitment industry. Since 2006 Paul has been the leading advice writer for Monster.com and CareerBuilder.com - the two biggest careers website in the world -tackling all aspects of workplace and management issues, job seeking, career change and hiring trends. In 2006, 2007 and 2008 his writing contributed to Monster winning the Best Employment Advice on the Internet Award for an unprecedented three times beating the likes of The Guardian, Learn Direct and Personnel Today on each occasion. And his work was a runner-up for the same award in 2009. In 2009 Paul was a nominee in the prestigious HR Journalist of the Year Award and Recruitment, Retention & Motivation Journalist of the Year Award. Paul has been commissioned to write more than 500 careers advice and guidance articles for a number of lpublications, from regional and national newspapers to industry publications and various career-specific websites in the UK and USA. Recently, Paul was the Technical Editor for career psychologist Dr Rob Yeung's Job Hunting & Career Change for Dummies (John Wiley & Son, 2007). Dr Yeung is better known as the TV psychologist for Channel 4's Big Brother and the BBC's Who Would Hire You? series. Clients include: Monster.com CareerBuilder.com MSN Careers (Europe) TheLadders TotalJobs SalesTarget.co.uk IntaPeople Recruitment Lifetracks/YouthNET MediaSalesJobs The Press Gazette

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