Graduates without work experience will be left out in the cold

Over one third of entry level jobs will go to graduates already involved with companies.

Many soon-to-be graduates will be left without a job due to lack of work experience, new research suggests. High Fliers’ The Graduate Market in 2013 report, released today, declares that of all entry level vacancies available for 2013, over a third will go to those who have already completed internships or work experience for the company.

The toughest fields to get into without having experience are banking and law, it has been revealed. This may well be, but what happens when these internships are so fiercely competitive that they are practically impossible to come across?

In the legal profession, university students have the option to apply to take part in a vacation scheme: a two or three week paid work experience that provides insight – and contacts – in a law firm. However, Jack Denton, co-founder of the research website AllAboutCareers.com, estimates that for approximately 3,150 places on the schemes nationwide, there are more than 12,000 applicants.

Three thousand schemes might seem like a generous amount, but when one considers that most students who secure one work placement also manage to achieve at least one more in another firm, these get swallowed up very quickly by a fairly select bunch.

As former Labour minster Alan Milburn pointed out in his 2009 report, Fair Access to the Professions, law is one of the “most socially exclusive” fields to work in, and firms’ “closed shop mentality” means that connections, and ‘who you know’, is often prioritised above talent. It is unfortunate that this attitude isn’t limited to the legal profession.

Managing director of High Fliers Research, Martin Birchall says:

“This latest research confirms that taking part in work placements or internships whilst at university is now just as important as getting a 2.1 or a first-class degree”.

So what other options are available to those who haven’t managed to secure this ever-important addition to their CV?

With most core Universities offering hundreds of societies which welcome the participation of anybody and everybody, there is no excuse for not getting involved. It is not, either, impossible to go one step further and assume a volunteer role in the committees of these societies. Invaluable budgeting experience could be gained in the role as treasurer, for example, organisational skills for social secretaries and management skills for presidents.

Students need to make the most of opportunities that are there for them,  before it is too late and all that can be done to beef up the CV is to work tirelessly for free in the hope that one pitiful employer might eventually hire you for, you know, real money.

Or, following Adam Pacitti’s recent example, entry level aspirators could make their own opportunities. This 24-year-old Portsmouth University graduate spent his last £500 on a Camden billboard begging employers to ‘Employ Adam’. Inspired, huh? He is looking for a job in the creative field of television production, so let’s hope someone takes a punt on him soon and ends the unemployed misery of at least one former student.

But it’s not all bad news for the next generation to leave university. The outlook is good for the 2013 graduate job market, with an expected increase of 2.7 per cent. Perhaps that will go some way to reduce the approximate 50 per cent of graduates from last year who are under- or unemployed.

Hold on to your hats - graduate employment is a bumpy ride. Photograph: Getty Images
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The tale of Battersea power station shows how affordable housing is lost

Initially, the developers promised 636 affordable homes. Now, they have reduced the number to 386. 

It’s the most predictable trick in the big book of property development. A developer signs an agreement with a local council promising to provide a barely acceptable level of barely affordable housing, then slashes these commitments at the first, second and third signs of trouble. It’s happened all over the country, from Hastings to Cumbria. But it happens most often in London, and most recently of all at Battersea power station, the Thames landmark and long-time London ruin which I wrote about in my 2016 book, Up In Smoke: The Failed Dreams of Battersea Power Station. For decades, the power station was one of London’s most popular buildings but now it represents some of the most depressing aspects of the capital’s attempts at regeneration. Almost in shame, the building itself has started to disappear from view behind a curtain of ugly gold-and-glass apartments aimed squarely at the international rich. The Battersea power station development is costing around £9bn. There will be around 4,200 flats, an office for Apple and a new Tube station. But only 386 of the new flats will be considered affordable

What makes the Battersea power station development worse is the developer’s argument for why there are so few affordable homes, which runs something like this. The bottom is falling out of the luxury homes market because too many are being built, which means developers can no longer afford to build the sort of homes that people actually want. It’s yet another sign of the failure of the housing market to provide what is most needed. But it also highlights the delusion of politicians who still seem to believe that property developers are going to provide the answers to one of the most pressing problems in politics.

A Malaysian consortium acquired the power station in 2012 and initially promised to build 517 affordable units, which then rose to 636. This was pretty meagre, but with four developers having already failed to develop the site, it was enough to satisfy Wandsworth council. By the time I wrote Up In Smoke, this had been reduced back to 565 units – around 15 per cent of the total number of new flats. Now the developers want to build only 386 affordable homes – around 9 per cent of the final residential offering, which includes expensive flats bought by the likes of Sting and Bear Grylls. 

The developers say this is because of escalating costs and the technical challenges of restoring the power station – but it’s also the case that the entire Nine Elms area between Battersea and Vauxhall is experiencing a glut of similar property, which is driving down prices. They want to focus instead on paying for the new Northern Line extension that joins the power station to Kennington. The slashing of affordable housing can be done without need for a new planning application or public consultation by using a “deed of variation”. It also means Mayor Sadiq Khan can’t do much more than write to Wandsworth urging the council to reject the new scheme. There’s little chance of that. Conservative Wandsworth has been committed to a developer-led solution to the power station for three decades and in that time has perfected the art of rolling over, despite several excruciating, and occasionally hilarious, disappointments.

The Battersea power station situation also highlights the sophistry developers will use to excuse any decision. When I interviewed Rob Tincknell, the developer’s chief executive, in 2014, he boasted it was the developer’s commitment to paying for the Northern Line extension (NLE) that was allowing the already limited amount of affordable housing to be built in the first place. Without the NLE, he insisted, they would never be able to build this number of affordable units. “The important point to note is that the NLE project allows the development density in the district of Nine Elms to nearly double,” he said. “Therefore, without the NLE the density at Battersea would be about half and even if there was a higher level of affordable, say 30 per cent, it would be a percentage of a lower figure and therefore the city wouldn’t get any more affordable than they do now.”

Now the argument is reversed. Because the developer has to pay for the transport infrastructure, they can’t afford to build as much affordable housing. Smart hey?

It’s not entirely hopeless. Wandsworth may yet reject the plan, while the developers say they hope to restore the missing 250 units at the end of the build.

But I wouldn’t hold your breath.

This is a version of a blog post which originally appeared here.

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