Well, it’s late as I’m writing this, so I’ve only had a quick scan so far but the new report by High Fliers Research entitled “The Graduate Market in 2014“ makes interesting reading – in fact almost bedtime reading so thank heavens for executive summaries. Now I’m not going to regurgitate endless stats or headlines, I’ll let you read it for yourselves for that, but one aspect has got me pondering. I know I’m breaking my promise of non-regurgitation as the following extract doesn’t really tell myself or my fellow careers professionals anything new regarding the graduate recruitment landscape. However, it is the cause of my pondering and I’ll tell you why.
“Over half the recruiters who took part in the research repeated their warnings from previous years – that graduates who have had no previous work experience at all are unlikely to be successful during the selection process and have little or no chance of receiving a job offer for their organisations’ graduate programmes”.
There is reference in the report to how most top employers target their resources towards Russell Group universities. I can understand that rationale and bias to a point in that if you have limited resources you cannot very well target, say 100 universities. If you then link this to the 37% of graduates at these top firms who have been directly employed from their work experience programmes then we reach the beginnings of my pondering. If firms are targeting Russell Group universities then clearly they are likely to receive more applications from said universities for their work placement schemes – although no figures in the report to confirm this. Even assuming if there was no bias in the recruitment of undergraduates to work placements on the basis of where they are studying (you can make your own minds up on that), then a certain logic follows that if there are more applicants from Russell Group universities those students stand more of a chance of getting on a work placement scheme. Once that placement is completed then there is a much greater chance of gaining a graduate position with that firm.
Consider if you were a graduate from a post 1992 university with a great degree and relevant work experience. Regardless of how you perform, if you apply for a graduate job at one of these firms that didn’t target your uni then you know 37% of places are going to undergraduates who have already completed a work placement there. It brings to the forefront the debate of higher education being an enabler for social mobility when outcomes for graduates are now being determined far earlier in the education pipeline. With high competition for graduate jobs how far do we still have to go in terms of recruitment decisions being made earlier in a persons career? For example, pre-entry conditions onto year two work placements being made at the start of year one.
If I could use a football coaching analogy to try and quantify this concern it would be there are many promising youngsters who don’t follow the standard developmental curve and are left by the wayside early in their footballing career (despite eventually catching up and sometimes exceeding their peers). Missing the bar in one early window of opportunity can severely limit and narrow future opportunities regardless of how far you may have developed since that early setback.
So that’s my main concern, that despite all the progress a student may well make over the course of a three year degree missing out on small windows of opportunity early on can limit opportunities upon graduation.