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Road To Recovery Or Double Dip for Graduate Recruitment?
As the 2010 intake programmes get into full swing, we talk to four leading UK organisations about the mood of the market. Whisper it quietly, but graduate recruitment might just be seeing the first tentative green shoots of recovery.
Asda, Capgemini, Centrica, and RWE npower.Each one a towering presence in their respective markets, collectively recruiting and training hundreds of graduates every year. So who better to provide a barometer of the graduate recruitment market today than these prominent organisations? Here is an up-to-the-minute snapshot of how the market is fairing against a backdrop of unprecedented economic turmoil.
Looking back to the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) Summer Review survey, graduate vacancies suffered an unprecedented fall of 24.9%, substantially more dramatic than the decline of 5.4% forecast in their Winter Review. But that was then and this is now. As the end of the year draws near, many European countries are already coming out of recession, the banking crisis has stabilised, and many businesses are speaking of secure operating conditions. So how do these four businesses see the graduate recruitment picture?
The common thread coming through from all the aforementioned companies is that overused, over-hyped phrase, ‘green shoots of recovery’. It may be tentative, it may be followed by the sharp frost of a ‘double dip’, but the sentiment is that the market is very slowly beginning to recover its health. That’s certainly the case talking to the Graduate Programme Manager for the leading integrated energy giant, Centrica.
“We’re confident about 2010,” he says. “During 2009, we recruited 58 graduates, which was eight more than 2008. In 2010, we expect to recruit up to 65 graduates and offer approximately 75 Summer Placement opportunities. This growth is largely being driven by the business. Centrica has worked hard to increase the internal profile of its graduate programme and we’re now seeing significantly more demand for graduates with a record number of applications for this year’s intake.”
Part of the reason for Centrica’s upswing in demand for graduates is the company’s involvement with the CBI. Sam Laidlaw, CEO of Centrica plc, is chairman of the CBI Higher Education Taskforce, which is spearheading collaboration between the higher education sector, business and government. “We’re engaging more closely with universities than ever and continually investing in the graduate pipeline. During 2010, we will be recruiting more graduates than we have done for many years into eight major streams of the business: Engineering, Geoscience, Information Systems, Finance, Marketing, Customer Operations, Analyst and Human Resources,” says the Graduate Programme Manager.
For the leading supermarket retailer Asda, the message is unequivocal; despite what you might read in the media, the graduate recruitment market is in good shape. Retail is the UK’s top service industry and continues to attract top tier talent. The Resourcing Manager for the company says, “The situation is a lot healthier than it was six months ago. When we go around the country talking to graduates, to universities, and to employers, they all agree that demand is picking up. The recovery may be tentative, but we are confident that graph curve is moving upwards.”
This year, Asda will recruit the same number of graduates that it did last year – 52 – across eight different schemes. “I think we all learned the lesson from the early 1990s during the last recession,” she adds. “Back then, when graduate recruitment was largely frozen, we saw the subsequent gap in director-level talent later in the decade. Our CEO was himself an Asda Graduate and we will continue to invest in graduates irrespective of the state of the economy.”
There is an encouraging picture from Capgemini too. According to this global leader in consulting, technology and outsourcing services, the graduate recruitment picture today is far more positive than it was six months ago. “We’re cautiously optimistic,” explains the Technology Services Graduate Recruitment Manager. “Currently, there is a very high rate of utilisation of existing graduates on feeearning customer deployments and we need more graduates. We’re confident that the 2010 intake will be significantly higher than the 2009 intake.”
Although he specifically represents the Technology Services line of business, he says that all the company’s lines of business are recruiting. “We’re looking for business consultants with a passion for technology. As we walk around the trade fairs and talk to other organisations, it’s clear they share our belief that market confidence is rising. There’s been a change between what the situation was like in the Summer and how it looks in the Autumn. The door has opened slightly and the light is beginning to shine through. It’s a tentative step in the right direction, but a welcome one.”
In spite of the recession, RWE npower has not lost the focus on its long-term graduate recruitment strategy. The retail arm of RWE npower, a leading integrated UK energy supplier, is not in the least complacent. The company’s Graduate Recruitment Manager says the demand for graduates remains almost as strong as ever. “We’re maintaining all six of our graduate recruitment schemes this year, from Engineering and General Business Management, to Finance and Quantitative Risk Analysis. We may take slightly fewer graduates in 2010, but that’s only to be certain each one of them is placed into the appropriate role.”
As those green shoots begin to appear, RWE npower is also making every effort to be ready for the upturn when it arrives. “Graduates are a long term investment, whatever the economic conditions. We are making every effort to raise awareness of the energy industry as a suitable graduate position and acquire graduates of the highest calibre. One initiative is the launch of the ‘Energy Challenge’, an interuniversity debate to explore how power generation and supply should respond to climate change. After all, the environmental challenges we all face go far beyond any short-term economic downturn.”
The comment from one of Centrica’s line of business executives to the company’s Graduate Programme Manager best sums up the mood of the moment. “If this is the calibre of graduates you can deliver to us, then we definitely want to take more of them.”
Posted: 02/10/2009 09:45:32
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