What do employers really want from graduates?
The vast majority of employers agree that graduates should be willing to move to get a graduate job – but according to new research published today, nearly 40% of graduates say they would prefer to stay near their family and friends, and those from less advantaged backgrounds are particularly likely to wish to return home.
The Graduate Success project research report comments, ‘Many graduates appear to be returning home after graduation to live more cheaply and to work in any job that will pay them enough to live on.’
This is just one example of the mismatches between employers’ and graduates’ expectations highlighted by the study, which was carried out as a joint project by the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS) and the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR).
Researchers compared graduates’ and employers’ perspectives on what helped graduates succeed in the jobs market. They identified willingness to relocate and gaining relevant work experience as two key areas where graduates from less advantaged backgrounds faced particular difficulties.
The Graduate Success project was one of a range of initiatives funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to investigate the current state of play in graduate recruitment and look at ways of levelling the playing field. Another project looked at how employers and graduates are responding to the HEAR (Higher Education Achievement Report), the new system that aims to provide employers with a full record of graduates’ academic and extracurricular achievements, and found some initial nervousness.
It’s official: don’t put off jobhunting till your final year
The Graduate Success report warns students against leaving jobhunting till their final year. The research highlighted the vicious circle that students can find themselves trapped in if they do this, as they are highly likely to end up putting jobhunting off again in order to focus on getting a 2.1. Graduates may then find themselves moving home and taking any job to support themselves, after which they face an uphill struggle to get out of non-graduate employment.
‘Many students leave without any clear ideas about their future’
Does this sound like you? The Graduate Success report comments, ‘When choosing careers, many students appear to rely on intuition and serendipity, consequently leaving HE without any clear ideas about their future… The biggest barrier for many is the overwhelming nature of this career decision, with the lack of a ready answer to the question “What should I do?” lying, perhaps, at the route of much of the expressed dissatisfaction with careers service provision.’
Are you on the way to letting your career planning slide till after graduation? Be warned, the later you leave it, the harder it will be, especially as it will be more difficult for you to access your careers service once you have left university and are working.
Are students who work part-time at a disadvantage in the graduate jobs market?
The research found that most students understood the importance of having relevant work experience. However, over a third did not have the time to do so and felt it was more important to concentrate on getting a 2.1.
Many graduate recruiters – particularly large employers – considered related work experience to be essential. Nearly 40% felt that graduates should take unpaid relevant work experience in preference to paid, but unrelated, work, and two-thirds stated that an internship with them was the best route into employment.
Not surprisingly, the research found that relevant work experience helped students to secure graduate jobs. Part-time working was associated with a greater likelihood of employment after graduation, but did not appear to help students into graduate-level roles to the same extent as relevant work experience.
The report recommends that universities should link work experience opportunities with the curriculum as far as possible, ‘so that students do not have to make invidious choices between getting relevant experience, their studies and working in order to fund their education.’