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.

New Statesman
Hold on to your hats - graduate employment is a bumpy ride. Photograph: Getty Images

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.