In our ever-changing job market you may need to look beyond traditional graduate recruitment channels to find employment. Only a small percentage of graduates are recruited by large companies. The majority are employed by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). SMEs have no more than 250 employees; it is estimated that there were 5.7 million of them in the UK in 2018, making up over 99 per cent of businesses.
Training and salaries in SMEs
Many SMEs can’t offer an institutionally approved structured training programme; however, training will be given on the job. The work and level of responsibility will vary and you may find you progress more quickly than you would in a more formal environment. Although SMEs find it hard to match blue-chip salaries, the gap isn’t as considerable in engineering as in other industries.
Finding a job in an SME
Creative job-hunting techniques are required to find jobs with small engineering firms. Your university careers service should be the first stop: SMEs have strong links with these services and may use them to advertise jobs. Increasingly, business agencies are linking up with their local universities to tap into graduate talent within that region. You can visit the careers service at your nearest university post-graduation.
Applying to SMEs
You will need to be proactive in your job search and approach to SMEs – don’t just send in your CV and wait. Like most employers, SMEs prefer graduates with work experience who can start to contribute to the company’s success immediately. Multitasking is key. SMEs want to know that you can take on several roles with varying amounts of responsibility and juggle them on a daily basis. Sell yourself but remember not to lose sight of the bigger picture when applying:
- Put the company you’re applying to under the microscope – what kind of projects do they undertake, what are their aims and objectives?
- What experience do you have that fits the skills they require?
- Show that you can adapt your existing knowledge to their specific needs.
- Follow up your application with a phone call, it shows your enthusiasm.
The most common alternative to the formal training found in SMEs are graduate apprenticeship schemes. These were established in association with SEMTA, the sector skills council for science, engineering and manufacturing technologies. They are designed to bridge the gap between higher education and employment. The apprenticeships aim to help larger companies, as opposed to SMEs, when it comes to recruiting graduates.
- The foundation in applying engineering principles.
- The higher education component for an appropriate academic qualification.
- A work-based component – credits for which can be earned during a year in industry while still at university or when you start full-time employment after graduation.
The apprenticeship consists of three components: