I took part in the graduate recruiting track and the GenY track at #truManchester. My takeaway from the latter was the feedback from those that fit the stereotype by age, (and not the old people talking about them), was that they would rather not be boxed in to an age bracket definition which dictates what they are capable of and how they think. It is much the same as speculating that all Baby Boomers don’t understand technology and want a job for life. People are people and should be approached as such. The labeling is not helping either to integrate, and none of those present lived at home! You can read more about this at the great blog started by The Twintettes which outlines their view on this.
My biggest eye-opener came in the Graduate Recruitment track. The story I heard was far from what I expected. Martin Edmondson from Graduates Yorkshire, commented that he knew of a number of larger companies that ran Grad Training Programmes that just couldn’t get enough applications. As a result, the programmes are still open when historically they would be long closed by now. This astounded me and was backed up by a few others who operate in the graduate recruitment market or hire graduates.
All the headlines tell me we have a lost generation and that the situation for this years graduates is dire.
Some possible causes for this gap between reality and perception among those graduating are:
- Negative headlines and reports have led to a belief among students that there is no point. More positive headlines please that reflect reality!
- This year has seen the highest number of graduates taking up continuing education for another 1 – 2 years. This is because of the belief that there are no graduate opportunities and needing an alternative safe-haven for the next few years. Continuing education can be irrelevant and does not necessarily lead to greater employability, whilst increasing student debt.
- Theres a greater number of graduates taking extended “gap years” for travelling, believing there is no point sitting around unemployed as there are no opportunities.
- Poor links between graduate employers and graduates.
Since #truManchester, I have been looking closer in to this by speaking with interns and graduates I’m connected with and others responsible for graduate recruitment. Theres seems to be a huge disconnect between university career departments and graduate employers. There is not a lot of confidence in either their capability to give real commercial advice or to co-ordinate entry in to the workplace. The top 10 – 20% of graduates that have been courted for some years or go to the right universities are fine, but what of the 80% that sit outside this bracket?
The feedback I get is that University Careers Officers are well-intentioned but lacking in real life experience or reality. The upshot of this disconnect is where we are at now, where there are so many students out of work through apathy or access to opportunity, while graduate programmes are struggling to attract a sufficient volume of candidates to achieve the quality needed.
I thought social media channels might provide the gateway that enables graduating students to connect with reality and find opportunity. After all, there’s lots of great advice out there in the twitter stream about how to find a job, and it is given freely. This is, after all the connected generation we are talking about!
Just how many of those graduating at this time are active in social media? The lowest percentage of social media users in the USA (couldn’t find the UK figures) according to Google Ad planner is 18 – 24 with 9%. (kind of flies in the face of the Gen Y enabled generation theory.) I would imagine that the UK is not going to be dissimilar.
There are some very good graduate communities and websites on-line. Graduates Yorkshire and Brave New talent are two that I’m very familiar with. That is great for those that belong to those communities or sign up, but what of those that are either unaware of the communities or just not using social-media in this way? When we conducted user research for the Oyster Partnership, the majority of younger users were in Facebook only (not twitter) and this was largely for social use and staying connected with a small group of friends. The feedback from #truManchester was that there is still major concerns over privacy which over ride a willingness to post personal detail to Facebook. Perhaps this is where the university career services need to be devoting their efforts, in converting a less than social generation in to using social media in the job search, and picking up on real opportunities rather than reading sensational headlines.
I ran a quick search for graduate opportunities in the UK through the TwitterJobSearch engine that reads 120mn messages a day from 30 social sites and aggregates all the job posts in one place (It’s very neat!). This simple search shows that there are over 3,273 graduate trainee jobs posted to twitter today.
Job aggregator 1job.co.uk are showing 6,282 jobs currently advertised on job boards and career sites.
Jobsite alone have 326 jobs posted for graduate trainee specifically and 1480 jobs requiring either new graduates or graduate level entry candidates.
It is a fair assumption that there may be many duplicates or agency postings amongst these figures, but that’s still a lot of opportunities at a time when we are reading the “lost generation” headlines each day.
I’d like to see the careers advisors from the universities spending time on developing student skills in social-media and on-line in order to find jobs opportunities, track graduate employers and get the most of the application process. The students also share some responsibility in this.
Whilst drafting this blog, I noticed a post from Wendy Jacob (who works in a university), airing her disappointment that come the end of term, the students just disappeared. While she works with the students (and no doubt puts plenty of personal time in), she doesn’t always get the follow-up or interest she deserves. You should read and comment on Wendy’s post. Could be that all the “No Jobs” and “Lost Generation” talk has caused many to give up before they have even started. I think more universities should employ the likes of Wendy, who have real recruiter experience. Her role is all about employability, everything we are talking about here.
In my own experience in sourcing interns for clients from Universities, it has been a real mixed bag of experiences. I have had to really battle to get through the layers of career service and get to talk to someone who can do anything. We get there in the end, but if I was hiring for me, I’m not sure I wouldn’t have given up before I even started. Despite much talk, the universities seem disinterested to organise themselves to talk to potential employers who could provide the gateway in to work.
I’d be interested in your views and experience in this area, and the best way to get the right graduates in to the right jobs. It seems that outside of some excellent on-line communities like Graduates Yorkshire and Brave New Talent, both parties are being poorly served.
Be ambassadors for great recruiting,
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