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What now for graduate recruiters?
Last year’s changes to higher education dominated the news in the recruitment industry. The removal of the cap on tuition fees and the consequent fall in 2012 University applications sparked much discussion around the challenges this will present to both future graduates and the graduate recruitment market. GradFocus explores the alternatives to traditional higher education and the opportunities these provide to graduates, businesses and the graduate recruitment market.
Since 2000, GradWeb has been working with a number of organisations, not only on its graduate recruitment programmes but on numerous other entry-level programmes, including apprenticeship and sponsored degree programmes. This article will bring you an overview of the alternatives to graduate intakes and a view of what some other recruiters in the market are doing.
Apprenticeships have always been a popular route into employment for those leaving school, offering a hands-on method of learning without the university debt. Well-known organisations such as Ford, BT and Rolls Royce have been recruiting apprentices for years, and the number of companies looking to follow in their footsteps is set to increase.
Perhaps many organisations will be encouraged by the coalition government’s plans to offer subsidies to entice companies to consider apprenticeships a viable alternative to graduate recruitment. During last year’s National Apprenticeship week in February 2011, the Guardian newspaper reported on government plans to create an extra 100,000 apprenticeships.  This followed a report by City and Guilds that over half of those who recruit apprentices think they offer more value to a business than graduates.
According to the recent GradWeb Graduate Employer Survey, apprenticeships were the second most popular form of permanent recruitment after graduate programmes, with 43% of responding organisations currently running apprenticeship programmes.
Apprenticeships tend to be focussed on vocational study, offering qualifications such as HNDs; on the other hand, sponsored degree/school leaver programmes offer similar benefits, but are alternatively directed towards attaining a full bachelors degree or a defined level of competence within, for example, a technical discipline.
School Leaver and Sponsored Degree programmes
Whilst school leaver/sponsored degree programmes are not new to the recruitment industry, the concept has certainly gained traction since the rise in university tuition fees seen in 2011. For instance, GradWeb’s client Logica has run a sponsored degree scheme for a number of years. Students spend 3 years working at Logica, with one day a week spent studying at the University of Winchester, towards a BA (Hons) in Business Management. The students receive an annual salary of £13,000 and have their tuition fees paid by the company, on the condition that they continue to work at Logica for 3 years after their degree is completed. This opportunity, along with other school leaver programmes, has the advantage for participants to gain a recognised qualification whilst avoiding the higher levels of debt associated with degree courses from 2012.
More recently the concept has been promoted further, in particular with large companies such as Barclays and Deloitte, and also includes foundation degree programmes such as National Grid’s Engineering Training Programme (ETP). Most likely this is due to the positive publicity they have received in addition to the talent they are securing for their firms. Additionally, many firms may have previously shown interest in running these programmes but were since deterred by the lack of knowledge and experience in implementing a school leaver/sponsored degree programme. This was indicated in The GradWeb Graduate Employer Survey, whereby only 16% of respondents were currently running a school leaver programme, despite the fact that over 40 percent were considering implementing one in the future.
Some organisations have been even more innovative in their approach given the uncertainty of the current graduate market. Another GradWeb client, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), recently announced its decision to effectively pay back their graduate hires’ tuition fees once they join the company. This announcement confirmed GSK’s plans to pay the fees of around 100 graduates, on commencement of full employment with the company, and on the understanding that they will work for the company for at least 2 years.
“Innovative methods of attraction and recruitment have the benefit of media coverage, shown by the positive market reaction to GSK’s plans for 2012, and good media coverage has the benefit of attracting candidates. The most important consideration beforehand is research. Whilst being innovative is important there are still practical considerations and knowing the market place is essential” (Ben Jackson, Commercial Director, GradWeb)
It is clear that the graduate market has been shaken by recent changes in higher education, but this hasn’t forced graduate recruiters to retreat. In fact, it has driven greater creativity and innovation. We expect more alternatives from the market in the future in response to these challenges.