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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How gendered are this year’s most popular Christmas present toys?

Meet the groups fighting back against the gendering of children’s toys over the festive season.

You’re a young girl. You go into WH Smith’s to pick out a colouring book for Christmas. You could buy the Girls’ World Doodling and Colouring Book, a "gorgeous gift for any girl". In this, the pictures range "from flowers, fans, feathers, to birds, buttons and butterflies". Or Colouring for Girls: Pretty Pictures to Colour and Complete, where you can colour in "beautiful birds, seashells, cupcakes, pretty patterns and lots more". The counterpart Boys’ Colouring Book has a range beyond buttons and feathers: "Planes, trains and automobiles – plus the odd alien spacecraft".

In the run-up to Christmas, this kind of gendered marketing is rife, particularly finding its way into the predominantly pink colour scheme of girls’ toys.

Take Amazon’s page "2016 Toys for Girls": a pink icecream trolly set, a pink light-up tablet, pink building blocks, pink and purple friendship bracelets and so on.

There are several groups taking action against the "pinkification" of children’s toys. One of these is Let Toys Be Toys, a group that targets large supermarkets with the aim of reducing the gendered marketing used on children’s goods.

The Let Toys Be Toys blog focuses on specific examples of targeted gendering within shops, catalgoues and online. A particularly revealing example of how prevalent this has become in recent years is in two pictures published from the Argos catalogue, one from the Seventies, and one from nowadays. The eye-wateringly pink page from now makes the 1970s page look dour by comparison. The lack of change over four decades of what kind of products are marketed at girls is equally striking:

Despite the efforts of campaign groups such as Let Toys Be Toys, the prevalence of gendering within the highest-rated children's gifts for 2016 is staggering.

Look no further than the Ultimate Christmas Gifts Guide from Toys R Us. One of the most immediately obvious examples is the way in which the pink/blue colour schemes are used to market identical products. This is repeated again and again:

This identical drawing board is uniquely packaged to the binary colour codes that are so common within children's toys stores.

The same applies with this keyboard, where the young girl and boy are pictured almost identically, save for the coordination of their clothes to the colour of their toys.

The message is a hugely limiting one: one that allows little movement away from the binary of pink/blue. The effects of this are longstanding. A recent poll from YouGov shows that "only a third of parents approve of boys playing with Barbies". The data goes on to explain that "while most parents approve of girls playing with toys marketed to boys, a minority of adults approve of the opposite".

Images like this were the inspiration behind Let Toys Be Toys, back in 2012. The campaign began on Mumsnet, the forum for parents, on a section called "AIBU", which stands for "Am I Being Unreasonable?". One parent posted the question: "Am I being unreasonable to think that the gendered way that children’s toys are marketed has got completely out of hand?" The heated discussion that followed led to a sub-section with the founding memebers of Let Toys Be Toys.

This aside, Let Toys Be Toys has made signifcant progess since it began. It targets large stores, focusing on gendered signage both in store and online. In their four years, they have campaigned for signs like "girls' toys" and "boys' toys" to be removed from retailers such as Boots, Debenhams, Morrisons, Toys R Us and TK Maxx. It is the go-to hashtag on Twitter for examples of the often shocking gendering of children’s toys.

"This is ostensibly about toys, but what we’re really talking about is gender stereotypes that shape our children’s worlds in an apparently very unassuming way," says Jess Day, a Let Toys Be Toys campaigner. "It seems very innocent, but actually what we’re doing is giving children very clear instructions about how to be a man and how to be a woman."

These clear instructions work beyond colour coordination: where girls are sold the image of the pink "girly girl", for instance. This is evident in children’s fancy dress costumes. Early Learning Centre’s (ELC) children’s fancy dress range imposes very rigid gender roles. To give examples from the current christmas range:


Credit: ELC

Again, the predominant colour sceme is pink. The roles offered are mainly fairies and princessess: generally make-believe.

“I found it really interesting that there were almost no ads showing girls doing anything," comments Day. "Physically they were very passive. The only physical activity we saw girls doing was dancing. They weren't really moving around much."


Image: ELC

By contrast, young boys are offered the possibility of pretending to be a firefighter, a policeman or a doctor, among other practical, professional roles.

This year's Toys R Us Christmas advert follows on from this, with girls mainly dressed as princesses, and boys dressed as knights and kings. Much like the pink/blue colour scheme that we see all over children's shops, these fancy dress costumes create an unnatural binary. They send out a message that restricts any kind of subversion of these two supposedly polar opposites.

What's more, the subtext is one that is deeply rooted in expectations, building up a picture where careers such as that of a policeman and fireman come more naturally to boys, who have been socialised into these roles from childhood through fancy dress costumes of this type. Instead, girls are later forced to learn that most of us aren't going to become princessess, and none of us fairies – and so the slow process begins to unlearn these expectations.

There are certainly groups who try to counteract this. Manufacturers such as the toy brand IamElemental aims to break down the gendered distinctions between boys' toys and girls' toys, by creating female action figures.

“We always say that we are not anti-doll or anti-princess, but that if you give a girl a different toy, she will tell a different story," says Julie Kershaw, a member of the organisation. "As the mom of two boys, I always say that it’s just as important to put a strong healthy female action figure in a boy’s hand as it is a girl’s”.

Like the campaigners behind Let Toys Be Toys, IamElemental sees children’s toys as the starting point.

“We want kids – both girls and boys  – to internalise these messages early and often,” says Kershaw. “While there are certainly biological differences between girls and boys, gender-specific toys are not a biologically dictated truth. Toys are not “for girls” or “for boys”  – toys are for play; for exploration and creative expression.”

This attitude is ingrained in a child’s early years. Only through reconfiguring the gender sterotypes of the toys we buy for our children can we begin to break down their expectations of how to behave in age. We challenge you this Christmas to avoid these highly gendered products. Below are our three favourite Christmas presents for children this year, for girls AND boys, as approved by Let Toys Be Toys:

Mini Table Tennis (£7.99)


From: The Little Toy Box

Djeco Intro to Origami - Animals (£3.99)

From: Rachel's Toy Shop

Seedling Make Your Own Dino Softie! - Dino(sew)or Kit (£5)


From: Gifts For Little Ones