What now for graduates?

Posted on August 17, 2009

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How much do the graduates of today really know about the job situation?  As I sat discussing the situation in a recent waitmeeting, the look on the intern’s face said it all – it was the first time she had really stopped to think about it.

A couple of months ago, as people were finishing their finals, the situation for students looked very bleak (to the rest of us).  The expected shortfall was just 5.4% in official graduate jobs (since increased to 25%), but, given that “official” grad jobs account for just 7-8% of the graduating class, an extrapolation across the whole university leaver population suggested that something in the region of 100,000 or up to 38% of grads would be jobless come July.

But we also heard, back in February, about David Lammy’s solutions. 

The Government internship was one.  Another was increased entrepreneurialism.  The third was postgraduate education.

So how have these come to pass?

For postgraduate study the Government promised to make available additional funding in the form of graduate development loans (suggesting that the available talent on the job market would, therefore, be of a lower calibre) but the 45,000 places announced are not yet in place.

The Minister also announced at the end of January that £148m was being freed up to help entrepreneurs who, he tells us, thrive in the current economic climate.  It now seems that a plan to send 500 people on a gap year has superseded that proposal.

So far, not so good.

But the issue of internships was always the most contentious.  As contraction in employment at all levels follows a contraction in fee earning work, it therefore follows that an increase in interns will not necessarily allow them to gain access to meaningful work or a cohort of managers and leaders above them who can mentor and develop them.

Given that, even in these economic times, the latest AGR survey reported that 37.3% of graduate recruiters still claim to have found it hard to fill all of their vacancies, with more than half citing a lack of skills, to spread out what meaningful work there is amongst a larger number of interns and poorer supervision is unlikely to create a generation of better-skilled graduates.

Indeed, in five years’ time it may be very difficult, on paper, to differentiate between managers with real experience and those who have simply been treading water.

Moreover, that just 2,000 of these internships are being created suggests that it’s not just the students and interns who are confused as to the size of the crisis.

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Posted in: Education, Politics