Employers are targeting first year undergrads and why I am not surprised!

We should not be surprised at news that companies are now offering paid internships to first year undergrads, as shown in the latest High Fliers research reported by the Times.

After all, 47 per cent of employers say they would not recruit a graduate with no experience and one third of those who graduate from university never manage to secure graduate level employment. Previous High Fliers research shows that 36 per cent give up altogether and settle for a lower skill role. Some of these will work their way up to management level but then they had a luxury today’s graduate doesn’t: a degree that didn’t lumber them with a £60k debt.

Further more, most graduates, influenced on one side by the sophisticated large spend marketing done by big companies, and on the other by well-meaning but overstretched career advisors, tend to look only at top companies like PwC and Deloittes when deciding on the company they would like to work for.

However, these companies are inundated by applications, some receiving over 80 for each vacancy. It creates huge competition and lots of disillusioned young people unable to escape from their cashier, bar and waitress roles.

Good careers advice could help graduates avoid this – not that I’m blaming them entirely as some careers staff are severely overstretched and serving a student-advisor ratio of up to 800:1. But it’s such a shame that both the graduates and career advisors don’t look more closely at the wider graduate job market. The Graduate Recruitment Bureau estimates that only 15% of graduate jobs are offered by these large organisations. The vast majority are hired by smaller firms.

Last year alone 46% of SME’s took on a new graduate.

New face for grad recruitment

The struggle to get a good graduate level job is bound to change the way graduates go about finding one and internships as a route to stepping on the career ladder is now key.

It is helping to create a new face to graduate recruitment, where clued-up first year undergrads are starting to look at ways to arm themselves with the skills they need to compete.

They are not waiting for an invite to the traditional graduate job fair aimed at final year students. They know it is too late by then.

In fact the Times report on the topic says graduate job fairs could become dwarfed as the main method of graduate recruitment.

For better or worse?

The Times report on the story raises another concern over the impact of these schemes that target graduates so early in their academic careers. It will mean even fewer jobs available to young people upon graduation, says the report. This is because employers are more likely to offer employment to those who have attended their schemes and to do so up to a year before they even graduate. In fact, 37 per cent of graduate vacancies are now filled in this way with employers reluctant to hire anyone who has not been through their schemes.

It also means, says the report, that graduates will have less opportunity to experiment with careers and will be forced to make their minds up much earlier about the career they want to follow.

Time alone will reveal whether the new face of graduate recruitment will lead to a jobs market that is better or worse for new graduates than the one we have today. Whichever way it goes, it is the clued-up graduate that does all he or she can as early as possible to develop the experience they need to stay ahead of the game that will fare best.