What apprentices bring that graduates ought to…?

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There has been a lot of talk in the media about the word ‘apprentice’ and that it still harks back to the old days of what apprenticeships were, as opposed to the huge variety of different apprenticeships today. So should it be given another name as it still has negative connotations?
This may make you think again, it has certainly got me to alter my view…

Following the recent AGR Student Development Conference and various discussions I had there with other delegates I am wondering whether an individual seeing themselves as an ‘apprentice’ as opposed to a ‘graduate’ could actually make an individual more attractive to employers, and here is why….

When an individual starts an apprenticeship they know they are at the beginning of their journey, they have lots of learn; need lots of training and will have to work hard and as they progress on this journey they will become more and more useful and valuable to your employer. As their usefulness grows their career moves forward and salary with it.

Whereas still too many graduates on landing their first graduate job (especially when it is a formal graduate programme) believe they have arrived, they’ve ‘made it’ and their career will ‘happen’. Becoming a graduate may be the end of the academic learning journey, but it is the beginning of the next journey of learning to become valuable for, and really contributing into, their employers’ organisation.

And so why does this ‘entitlement’ attitude still occur with so many?
1. Something (and don’t ask me what it is!) happens to students at University to make them believe this; that they are special in some way (I will be honest it did for me and it came as quite a shock that I was in no way special –yet!)
2. So much of the recruitment advertising and marketing attracting students to formal graduate programmes talks about ‘future leaders’ and has case studies of current Main Board Directors who started as graduates and achieved this in record time, with not enough focus on what those now Board Directors did to achieve this (especially focusing on the attitude they had to demonstrate to get to that position)

I know that individuals, who land places on formal graduate programmes are ambitious & have significant debt so need their career and thus earnings to move upwards as fast as possible, but it does seem to me the ‘attitude’ of working for it, the need to be constantly learning and improving their skills can and often is lost.

Being an apprentice, in part, means ‘I need to learn to become useful’, so employers will need to make that investment but that investment will be falling on fertile ground because the apprentice has joined the organisation to learn, whereas too many of those on (expensive) graduate programmes still just expect all that training as a matter of course and forget why it is being given to them.

I am not saying recruit apprentices and not graduates, I believe both are and can be hugely valuable, but with graduate programmes perhaps some thought can be given to the recruitment messages being used, and with the activity employers do on campus (with our Bright Futures Societies, for example) as opposed to yet more CV & Interview workshops, why not share insights into what it takes to succeed when they get into the work place?

Business leaders and trade unions agree…qualifications without being prepared for the world of work is another obstacle for graduates today

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Business leaders and trade unions agree…qualifications without being prepared for the world of work is another obstacle for graduates today; so a series of round table events by Adecco concludes.


‘Young people need help translating their qualifications into successful careers’ said the MD of Adecco. ‘It is more business, social and life skills that we need to prioritise if candidates who look good on paper are to be taken on and to become truly successful’ he went on.


Bright Futures is all about preparing young people for the world of work, giving them an array of opportunities throughout their time at University to offer more than their qualifications when job hunting. This then provides graduate recruiters with a great pool of talent to target and hire from.


Here at Bright Futures we have already gone beyond job hunting skills for undergraduates and have now added ‘Modern Life Skills’ to the portfolio of skills, which includes developing their ’emotional resilience & intelligence’ (an area receiving focus from these round table events) that we and our clients deliver to their target talent.


And as ever let’s stop making this issue of employability (however you choose to define it!) as something that needs to be done to students. So many students now know that they need more than a good degree. What is needed is the right framework, direction, motivation and support for undergraduates to drive this for themselves. You only have to see what some of our best Bright Futures Societies are doing to get ample evidence of this (plus the fact that 60% of our 2010-11 committees had jobs before they finished University). So without wishing to sound like a battle cry (!) let’s pull together as employers & HE to empower undergraduates to tackle this issue. Give them the opportunity and freedom (with the right infrastructue and support behind them)  to use their initiative and energy to innovate and engage more and more students in what we all know to be a key issue for us all.

How to get the best from Universities (Part 3 of 5)

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In the third of a 5 part series some ideas on how to get the best from Universities

With 2.2 million students in UK Higher Education alone, and with so many graduates with strong A levels and getting a 2.1 (see my last blog) it is crucial to find ways to effectively target the right talent on campus. What can the Universities themselves offer to help you recruit your interns & graduates?

Firstly, which Universities to target? If you know the courses you want to target use to find the Universities who run those specific courses.

Also think about the type of individuals you want to hire – for example, do you need more practically / vocationally biased in which case you may want to target the newer Universities. The other factor in who to target should be how easy the University make it for you to work with them – in other words good, old fashioned customer focus. So don’t just automatically think target the Top 10 Universities.

This decided then, one of your first ports of call should then be the University Careers Service. They have always been used to promote graduate & intern vacancies & opportunities. Although it is important to remember that Careers Advisory Services (to give it their full name) are not there to tell students what they should do as a career or persuade them to follow a certain route (i.e. work for you!), their role is to advise.

Activity on campus as an employer has changed – gone are the days of only needing to turn up at a University for a careers fair, the old fashioned ‘milkround’, and expect to meet all the relevant and engaged students you could ever need. There are just too many students wanting too wider range of careers, with all kinds of other time pressures on them for this to be effective on it’s own any more; as well as a huge amount of other much more focused activity being undertaken by employers all seeking to grab the attention of the best.

You need to use new methods to get onto the radar of graduate talent such as business games or challenges & case studies. These can be organised through the Careers Service.

Increasingly Careers Services are innovating themselves and with a real focus on directly improving the skills of students ready for the world of work such as the ‘Achieve’ Programme being launched at the University of Liverpool next year ( or the ‘WoW’ programme at Liverpool John Moores ( . As well as some great, tried and tested highly participative events like ‘Tomorrow’s Managers’ at the University of Leicester ( or the ‘Insights to Management’ at Loughborough University (

Another route, as well as Careers, would be targeting Academic Departments directly.

Working with key academic departments to provide, for example, ‘Guest lectures’ is not quick to make happen but is very effective; other activities include sponsoring faculty prizes; involvement in research projects, the list goes on.

The reality is to consistently recruit great intern and graduate talent year on year, you have to invest in building links with key institutions, and the good news is they are increasingly keen to build links with the commercial world – more so each year.