Finding graduate work
I was talking recently to a consultant whose job it is to analyse and advise on labour market trends, and what he told me might look worrying to some. The jobs of the future, he said, will go to graduates whose studies prepared them most closely for the work they are hoping to get. So does that mean that unless you want to teach it, you should not study (say) philosophy? Perhaps, he said. But on the other hand, what he suggested really matters is work experience. If you go through your education without any employment-related work, you probably won’t get it when you start to look for it more seriously.
Recent research has in general terms backed that prediction. It found that employers now often prefer to appoint graduates who have work experience, often within the same company. The company conducting the research concluded:
‘Today’s report includes the stark warning to the ‘Class of 2012’ that in a highly competitive graduate job market, new graduates who’ve not had any work experience at all during their time at university have little hope of landing a well-paid job.’
It is also my own experience that universities that facilitate work placements for students, or even require them (as my last university did), are providing their graduates with a considerable advantage in the labour market. It is of course the case that many students work anyway during their time at university. But even those universities that would not have considered work placements to be something they should get involved in might want to think again. It is not that all their programmes should become vocational, but that they should allow the newly acquired academic knowledge of the students to be supported by a better understanding of the world of employment. Attractive thought it may have seemed, insulating students from practical employment-related experience is not a good idea today.