Every once in a financial quarter I read some newspaper headline which goes along the lines of: ‘Graduates don’t have the necessary skills to work.’ or ‘Graduates not up to the mark, say industry bosses’. There have been surveys where the British Academic system and Universities are slated at every opportunity, by the Industry bosses, so much so that even the general public seems to think that the graduates of today probably learn how to stuff Mickey Mouse toys at university, and nothing else.
I would just like to ask the industry bosses to stop moaning: You have failed the graduates!
Before I go into detail, I would just like to say that I am employed and have always worked my way through with hard work. I have no godfather. There is no substitute for hard work. And this has nothing to do with my current employer, I believe it runs one of the best graduate and apprentice schemes.
So, the image below is a headline from The Telegraph, published a few months ago in 2011.
Universities are Academic, not FTSE 500!
Students take a decision to go to university to learn. Yes, on the funny side, graduates do say: “Oh, I joined this uni because the beer is cheapest in this city”, or “I love the football team” and so on… But this is only the funny side. Most students go to universities that they feel will offer them the best option to develop through a course.
At university, we are expected to attend lectures, learn, carry out experiments, submit assignments, or go on academic trips and visits. Once a year (if we are lucky) an industry person will come to university and boast about their research, or process, or idea.
What we are definitely not expected to do at university, is work more hours than we think we can afford, without affecting our academic work. We are not spoon fed, we have to research at times, plan ahead, and work in teams to do well through the semesters.
What Does Industry Expect from Graduates?
These industry bosses and the whole industry’s HR departments at times give us examples of how one candidate answered 2+2 = 5; and how another one didn’t know how to use a computer, and so on… My question is, how did that graduate even get an interview if that was REALLY the case?
Are we to assume then that the industry’s recruiting process is flawed? If I buy a computer and then I am not happy with it, I am to blame for it, as I chose it!
So, next time the recruiting people give examples and make fun of graduates, I would suggest looking back and checking who’s been the lesser informed person. The graduate can go back and learn to use a computer or rely on a calculator and do 2+2. But if you don’t improve your recruiting process, then the industry is failing graduates.
Profit without Risk – Impossible!
I’ve listened to many ‘bussinessy’ people come on radio and speak the management language whenever there is this question of youth employment, graduates, universities and colleges. The bottom line always is the company’s ‘Profit’.
I would like to ask these profit making (and even those who aren’t) industry experts, why they don’t run paid internship schemes. If you think (and are sure) that today’s graduates are not up to the mark – then run an internship scheme. Get a few interns on-board, train them up! Invest in students whilst at university to reap the profits later.
I did an internship with one of the ‘Big Six’ energy suppliers. It was the first time ever they invested in a graduate. Since then they have invested in an internship every year because they were able to see the benefit. Some of the interns work as graduates now and some have moved to new pastures. But those that came back as graduates are doing a fantastic job and are up and running faster than new graduates.
This shows that investing in interns is one of the best ways forward to hep university students understand what lies ahead in Industry. There is a small risk that the intern might join a different organisation and the training hours and finance might go away, but the profits far outweigh the risks.
British Universities Didn’t Fail Graduates; Industry Did!
The UK Graduate Employers have a ridiculous screening process for applicants. I wonder if these applications ever get read by a human or is it just machines scanning them for keywords?
Then the psychometric tests! They are nothing more than filtering out students. Because tests are liable to a simple flaw – the results are comparative to other applicants’, not unique to the candidate. That’s like choosing apples which look good on the outside, all of them could be flawed on the inside. But who cares? They are good compared to each other. No Variety!
There will be a time when graduates will know how to get round the system and there are already few services and applications popping up that will find ways of ‘cheating’ these systems.
And it is the Industry that introduced the rule of applicants needing to have a minimum 2.1 degree, or in some cases even a Masters’ degree – well then, students have to reduce part-time work and study even harder to achieve that. How do you expect the graduate to come in with work skills?
So, next time the Industry says graduates are not up to the mark, I hope they realise that the graduates have undergone 3-5 years of excellent academic study. And if they never hired an intern, then they can’t blame others for their ‘No Investment’ policy.
Graduates can’t be expected to come out of uni and be top workers. They have to be trained by the Industry, that’s how it works isn’t it? If you don’t invest, you don’t profit.
I hope you’re not disappointed with this article, I didn’t (and don’t) mean it to be a rant, I am just tired of seeing graduates’ hard work being made fun of. And genuinely hope employers invest in internships. It’s a win-win move. Speak to me if you want an example of how it helped me and I will even try to get you my employer’s experience of dealing with interns.