• Tuition Fees - Too Much?

    Reports of violence during protests against the reduction in university funding and resulting increase in university tuition fees, demonstrate just how serious an issue this is for the students and lecturers who demonstrated in London.

    Those who have been encouraged to consider going on to higher education, now have another reason to question the value of studying at university, alongside the constant reminders of the huge number of graduates who are currently unemployed and have not even begun to pay back the student debt that they owe.

    The president of the National Union of Students, Aaron Porter, went as far as saying "We should be clear that the government has asked students to pay three times as much for a quality that is likely to be no better than what they are receiving now and perhaps worse."

    But what does this mean for business?
    Speaking at the CIPD Conference in Manchester on Tuesday, Roger Wilson, director of HR and organisational development at University Hospitals of Morecombe Bay NHS Trust, said the hike will affect the demographic of those seeking employment.

    "We need to look at all the factors that influence the way we look at the talent pool," Wilson said. "With the cost of people going to university, I think we’re going to have a different talent pool of very bright 18 year olds who won’t be able to go to higher education."

    • Would you choose to study at university if you had to pay so much?
    • Does the pressure of having huge debt affect performance at work?
    • Is the tuition worth the debt?
    Tell us what you think now!

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  • Graduate Salaries

    Early findings from the XpertHR graduate recruitment survey indicate that the average graduate starting salary in 2010 is down 4.2% from last year to £22,968. Rachel Suff, author of the XpertHR research, explains that this may be due to “the slack graduate job market following the recession.”

    1/3 of employers surveyed claimed they are now taking on more recruits, which may be an early sign of recovery in the graduate job market. This finding is supported by research from the Association of Graduate Recruiters, which suggests that confidence among graduate recruiters is increasing. The research found that 50% of respondents expect to fill the same number of vacancies in 2011 as they did this year, while just over 35% of respondents anticipate a higher number of vacancies in 2011 and just fewer than 15% of respondents expect to offer fewer vacancies in 2011.

    While a lower salary is unfortunate for graduates, the planned increase in the number of vacancies is definitely a positive. Salary is not the only thing that prompts a graduate to apply to a job. As previously reported, learning experiences, happiness and flexible working are also attractive to graduates, alongside other benefits.

    Have your say -

    Are you offering lower starting salaries this year?

    Have you ever been told that the salary you offer is too low?

    Do you offer additional benefits?

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  • Graduate Employability

    Graduate Employability

    Despite the increasing numbers of graduates looking for employment, companies are still finding it tough to find the right ones for their business. Employers are becoming increasingly frustrated by the lack of “employability skills” evident in the so-called graduate talent that is flooding the marketplace, so what can businesses do to alleviate this problem?

    Successful communication with prospective graduate employees should really begin long before graduation. Some kind of contact with students, either directly within university or through student and graduate focused media, provides the platform to educate them about what sort of skills are required within a business and help them to find ways of developing those skills.

    The University of Plymouth has enlisted the help of local businesses in order to introduce a new course, whereby students go on work experience and work on real-life projects throughout each year and create a skills portfolio to show prospective employers. Some businesses also provide work placements for those students who have a year in industry as part of their degree, which gives them the opportunity to develop skills in a working environment.

    In order to access those students who are unable to take a placement year it can be beneficial to offer part time work experience that can be fitted around study or alternatively summer placements, both of which enable students to learn from your employees and gain a real insight into your business as well as a general understanding of the world outside of academia.

    Giving students more information about a particular business or industry can help them to understand the ways in which they need to develop, so the sooner they get this information the better.

    • Do you offer work experience opportunities for undergraduates?
    • Can you see a difference between the graduates you employ who have got some formal work experience and those who haven't?

    Tell us what you think now!

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  • Finding the right candidates

    With more graduates than ever graduating from university and fewer jobs around than in previous years, it is natural that companies are receiving huge volumes of applications for advertised vacancies, which, on the surface, is great news. However, a large proportion of the applicants are likely to be unsuitable for the role they have applied for and the challenge lies in managing the applications successfully and efficiently.

    There is an ongoing sense of panic among job-hunters, which leads to them “blanket-applying” to a range of jobs that they are not suited for and actually may not be interested in. This presents a new problem for recruiting companies in that response management can become even more costly when the volume of applications is increased.

    In order to reduce the amount of sifting required if is helpful to use tools which encourage graduates to self-screen as much as possible. Ensuring that information about a role is readily available can aid in reducing the number of speculative applications from candidates who are actually just seeking more details.

    Company Profiles and Employer Videos are good ways of providing an insight into the culture and values of an organisation and can also be used to demonstrate potential negatives, such as early starts or a tough working environment, which may put off any less committed applicants who would not be right for the role.

    Pre-screening questions can help to identify the candidates who meet your minimum requirements at the very start of the applications process, so that jobseekers who for example do not have a driving licence, or the necessary academic qualifications or are looking for a job in a different location do not waste their own time or your time, in applying for a role for which they are not suitable.

    Last week Bill Boorman’s TruManchester unconference confirmed what we at gradplus.com have known for ages - that targeted emails are Gen Y’s preferred method of receiving jobs as they are easy to read on their mobiles. Specifically targeted emails have always been popular with candidates and provide an excellent way of getting a higher proportion of suitable candidates applying.

    Have your say -

    Do you receive too many applications to cope with?
    Are there criteria that your applicants must meet?
    Do you find that a large proportion of your applicants are unsuitable for the roles for which they have applied?
    How do you make it easier for candidates to self-screen?

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  • Should all degrees be of value to the economy?

    It has been said that there is a direct link between investment in a three-year degree course and national wealth, but the evidence for this relationship is hard to find. Switzerland has fewer graduates than the UK but a more impressive GDP. Poland has more graduates but a weaker economy.

    Following Tony Blair’s wish that 50 percent of school leavers would go on to study at university, institutions have made changes in order to attract more undergraduates and receive more funding. The creation of courses with unusual names and less traditional content has probably gone some way to attract higher numbers and a wider range of students.

    However, if university courses are to help our national economy there surely needs to be more thought surrounding the question of which courses will benefit most. A degree in “Surf Science and Technology” or “Equestrian Psychology” may be useful in specific fields but could be taught at college, rather than degree level. Does there need to be a more direct link between what universities offer and what the real world needs, so that graduates are not leaving university with high expectations of a graduate career that cannot be fulfilled?

    Have your say -

    Are there too many graduates now?

    Has the prestige been taken away from British degrees because so many people have them?

    Should an alternative form of higher education be available for non-academic courses that are valuable to society?

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  • Can Social Media be used in Graduate Recruitment?

    Social networking is becoming an increasingly popular business tool for companies to connect with their customers and clients. But is it an effective way to understand and communicate with them?

    Social media has been identified as an effective way to connect with specific audiences, especially Generation Y, who have grown up with the web and regularly use social media and blogging as a method of communication.

    This would suggest that using social media to enhance your presence when recruiting graduates is a positive step, which it can be if done in the right way. Feedback from graduates, however, has signalled that many actually have concerns about their social networking persona being viewed by potential employers, meaning that they may attempt to limit their interaction to prevent negative effects.

    Last week we reported that the 'Social Media Audit' conducted by recruitment and marketing communications provider Penna Barkers and the Association of Graduate Recruiters, found that one in seven companies believe that it is "dangerous" to target potential recruits through sites such as Facebook or Twitter.

    Therefore, would a middle ground be useful where GenY can build a social profile specifically for their job-hunting activities, in order to create the professional image that they want to portray, rather than the more ‘social’ image portrayed on their existing accounts?

    Have your say -

    • Do you have a personal social networking page?
    • Do you search for new recruits on social networking sites?
    • Do you think a middle ground is needed?
    • Would you be happy for your colleagues and potential recruits to view your social networking page?
    • Does your company have a social networking page?
    • Do you think it is used effectively?

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  • A Gap Year can be more than a stop-gap!

    Last week we reported that according to the managing director of i-to-i, the leading TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course provider, between March and May there was a 22% increase in the number of students looking to work abroad.

    Working abroad and doing something different can be of hugely beneficial to your future job prospects.  Showing that you can be independent, are prepared to take risks, or just that you have experienced another culture can be valuable to an employer.

    Time away, working abroad or travelling can encourage personal growth and the development of independence, alongside building up important soft skills such as leadership and even survival skills. Don't underestimate the benefit of broadening your horizons, having new experiences and surviving in another country. These experiences can be great preparation for the start of your career.

    Have your say – how do you view gap years? 

    You can also find more information about gap years, what's available and how to fund volunteering opportunities in our Gap year, volunteering and charities sector.

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  • Sensible alternatives!

    Only 36% of final-year students expect to find a job this summer, according to a survey by High Flyers Research. What do the other 64% of the surveyed students plan to do post-graduation?

    Students and graduates are increasingly considering alternative options in the post-recession jobs market and it is quite easy to understand why. Even talk of the high competition for jobs is enough to discourage some job seekers, but for those who do attempt to find work but repeatedly receive bad news in response to their job applications it can be a difficult struggle.

    A popular alternative is going abroad, either to travel, work or teach. According to the managing director of i-to-i, the leading TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course provider, between March and May there was a 22% increase in the number of students looking to work abroad.

    Taking time out to do something different can be of huge benefit to a graduate who is in the process of looking for a career and a graduate who has been abroad and experienced another culture can be of value to an employer.

    Time away, working abroad or travelling can encourage personal growth and the development of independence, alongside building up important soft skills such as leadership and even survival skills. Horizons can be broadened, perspectives tuned and career ambitions refined, preparing an individual for the start of a career.

    Have your say – Will you be considering 2010 graduates for your 2011 intake if they have used their year to travel, work or teach abroad?

    Is this a better option than staying on at university to do a postgraduate qualification?

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  • How does Open University compare?

    The Open University has seen a sharp rise of 34% in the number of young people (18-24 year olds) taking its distance learning courses.

    70% of Open University (OU) students study part-time, providing them with the chance to work while completing their degree. Distance learning also takes away the necessity to leave home, considerably reducing the costs of living as a student.

    The reduced costs associated with distance learning, alongside the opportunity to earn money whilst studying part-time must surely be attractive and could explain these figures, but it is also important to consider the advantages that traditional universities have to offer.

    University, for many, is an opportunity to move out of a protected environment and to progress along the pathway of personal growth, developing a sense of independence and a social awareness of the world outside of structured school education. But for some, the financial benefits of OU could outweigh the personal and social benefits of traditional university.

    Have your say: What are your experiences of graduates from Open University in comparison to those who have physically attended lectures?

    Is it easier to get a job if you have worked since school alongside your studies?

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  • What do today’s graduates want from their jobs?

    Many employers assume that salary is the first thing that most graduates consider when searching for a job. But following a recent survey commissioned by Orange, it is safe to say that, certainly among the 1000 university leavers questioned, this is not actually the case.

    The top five areas that students said were important to them in their first job were:

    • Learning experiences - 69%
    • Happiness - 58%
    • Flexible working - 53%
    • Good salary - 51%
    • Great colleagues - 43%

    Another popular demand was ‘access to technology’ including being able to work remotely, showing that expectations are becoming more varied and more demanding. However, is this focus away from salary just a sign of the times? Were the graduates in the survey saying what they thought employers wanted to hear or has work/life balance become more important to debt stricken graduates than money, even before they start their working life?

    We are really interested to hear what you think - tell us what’s important to you - add your comments here!

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