A hundred thousand 16- to 24-year-olds unemployed, 49 per cent of graduates never gaining a graduate level job, and half of employers saying that graduates lack vital work-ready skills – bleak reports abound and yet we see at least three signs that point to a promising future for graduate employment.
With employers keen to find ways to access to the widest possible talent pool and universities knowing that their survival depends on creating better employment outcomes for their graduates, this is quite possibly the best of times for graduates looking for work.
We have seen a noticeable shift in effort with both sides actively looking for ways to create better opportunities for vocational training. It places graduates in a favourable position to get the help they need.
Sign 1: More employers and universities are working together, better.
We have seen a renewed determination from employers to work more effectively with universities to help graduates develop the skills they need for employment. Universities and employers have been working together for years but with little progress and often with both sides feeling that the other should do more. Recent research from City & Guilds shows that more than half of the employers surveyed would like to be more involved in developing qualifications to build a stronger link between education and business needs, and almost 80 per cent of employers believe that work experience is essential to get young people ready for work.
Sign 2: More programmes to help graduates become work-ready.
This is leading to an increase in the number of programmes to help improve the quality and range of ways young people can acquire the skills they need. One of these is the Financial & Legal Skills Partnership’s (FLSP) Graduate Foundation College (GFC), aimed at those who have graduated but are still struggling to secure full time employment. The GFC gives initial training to graduates before a three-month internship at a financial advisory firm and is part funded by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES). There are also virtual programmes like GetInGetOn, a programme that enables young people to find out more about the financial services and to develop the skills and knowledge that employers want via e-career mentors. Another would be the University of East London whose careers centre are doing some rather innovative things to help Graduates into jobs.
Sign 3: More and better quality internship training programmes
Another promising sign is better quality internships. This week, the FLSP joined the call for companies to pay greater attention to the benefits that can be created by paid internships. They said more companies, including SMEs, are looking at creating internships opportunities. This is particularly good news for graduates and could change the face of internship training where this method gaining the experience you need to get a job is no longer looked upon as the poor cousin of the graduate programme. Just a few weeks ago during a gathering of universities and employers this question around quality paid internships was also raised. Employers and recruiters are saying that if we are serious about helping graduates to skill up then we need to create an internship culture that can meet their needs.
“If every company took just one apprentice or intern, it would instantly address the youth unemployment level, which is still unacceptably high,”
“It would also help companies to adequately plan for growth in a recovering economy, buoyed by talented young people with sights set on success.”
Liz Field, CEO of the FLSP
We are pretty confident that activity in these three areas will increase as firms and universities look for ways to solve the problem around graduate recruitment. It is in the interests of both sides to work together to create opportunities for graduates to develop the employability skills they need. This can only spell good news for the future of graduate employment.