The inexperience of a lifetime

Published

James Porteous

The news of a sharp fall in the level of graduate recruitment for the coming year, while worrying, is certainly far from surprising in the current financial climate.

Following on from previous warnings that students graduating this year would face the worst employment prospects in decades, the release of this report simply confirms what most will have realised on their own — with massive job losses in most industries, and many companies shutting down altogether, it will be harder to find a job upon leaving education, especially for those with no experience of anything other than lectures and exams.

Of course, thanks to the Labour government’s misplaced determination to drive school-leavers into university (and subsequently into the wonderful world of student debt), graduate numbers are the highest they’ve ever been, at exactly the time when ex-students are least likely to be able to get a job with their degree.

This chronic situation is something of a perfect storm, and luckily there are major organisations apparently capable of bucking the trend. The ever-reliable civil service has seen a massive rise in graduate opportunities, and if you’re happy to risk taking a bullet, the armed services are always recruiting. Oddly, another organisation going against the tide is Aldi; while Woolworths was busy selling the shelving off the walls and the microwaves from the staffrooms, the discount supermarket has been offering graduates a starting salary of £40k and an Audi. If you’re still there after three years, they’ll give you £20k more per annum — of course, you’ll be competing against another 2000 applicants for the position.

Beyond the employers themselves, the Government has been busy attracting big names to their idea of a solution to the problem. A new internship scheme, giving graduates the chance to spend three months working at the likes of Microsoft, Price Waterhouse Cooper, and Barclays is currently being drawn up.

While this will obviously help CV building, it’s questionable how much difference three months at a firm will make to a graduate’s skillset, especially if it just becomes another hoop through which students are expected to jump on the way to employment. More important is what happens after three months: are the companies involved going to soak up the slightly less inexperienced graduates, or are they going to be placed back at square one, looking for the same graduate jobs that are still in decline?

Essentially, if it purely means everyone has the same government-prescription experience, in addition to a degree, student debt and no job, what progress has been made?