Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Graduate Recruitment - Report from the Forum

On February 15th the CWO along with Conservative Future (CF) held a successful Forum on "Graduate Recruitment" in Committee Room 5 of the House of Commons. A panel of four speakers including Andrew Stephenson MP, two recruiters from leading UK firms and a current student led the discussion.

More than fifty members of the public attended to hear the difficulties that young people face in the jobs' market today. The panel discussed the problems that graduates face in an increasingly difficult market where there are nearly 70 applicants for every job. During 2010 one in five students left university without a job as graduate unemployment soared to its highest level since the mid-90s.

Official figures published January 2011 showed 20% of ex-students were without work in the third quarter of 2010, with graduate unemployment increasing faster than the jobless rate among the UK as a whole. The Office of National Statistics' data suggests graduates have been hit harder by the economic downturn than the UK as a whole. These recent shocking statistics were the impetus being CWO and CF joining forces to discuss the pressing issue of graduate recruitment.

Pauline Lucas, CWO Chairman, welcomed everyone to the evening on behalf of the CWO and explained to those attending, that the Forums were established to give women the opportunity to debate topical subjects and challenging issues that affect women and their families every day.

Serene Richards, a current student at UCL spoke of the challenges she faced in finding a job and the gruelling application process. She spoke of a new generation of disillusioned graduates who believed that having a degree entitled them to a job. Many graduates, she said, found this to be false when after leaving university they struggled to find employment. Ms. Richards raised the question of the importance of internships and said that the reality was that many students could not afford to do unpaid work experience to climb the jobs' ladder.

The next speaker was Lucy Chamberlain, recruiter and director at Angela Mortimer Plc. She spoke of the increasingly competitive marketplace for graduates. Academic achievements, she suggested, were no longer enough with only 5% of CVs getting through to the interview stage. Ms. Chamberlain argued that graduates needed to learn to market themselves more effectively to employers and learn to use recruiters to find them a job.

Another headhunter, Tim King, the founder of Matchking, highlighted the importance of networking and online media. Many firms advertise opportunities online and use social networking sites to recruit and select candidates such as Linkedin. Mr King stressed the need for a professional online profile and the importance of a CV. Too many graduates, he said, had basic spelling mistakes in their CVs and failed to target their applications to the job or firm.

Finally, Andrew Stephenson, the Member of Parliament for Pendle and Vice Chairman of Conservative Future, spoke on the challenges facing graduates today. He explained that the Government was working hard to help get young people into jobs with schemes such as mentoring and the Job Centre Plus. He talked about his own experiences and difficulties in finding work that people face in his own constituency. He recommended that graduates should consider other paths to employment such as setting up your own business and called on those present to become the next generation of young entrepreneurs.

It was a lively discussion with contributions from current students, recent graduates, employers, parents, careers advisors and recruiters. Questions from the floor included concerns about the lack of careers guidance at schools and universities. There was a general consensus about the importance of work experience and the need to develop skills in addition to having a degree. The audience voiced concerns about the lack of opportunities for graduates and debated whose responsibility it was to tackle youth unemployment.

After an energetic discussion Pauline thanked everyone for participating and the speakers for their valuable contributions.

[You can read the complete minutes on the CWO Website at

Theodora Clarke, February 2011

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