BT decision to close graduate recruitment scheme branded ‘short sighted’

BT’s decision to close its graduate recruitment scheme is “short sighted” and will deter talented individuals from applying to the firm when demand picks up, it has been claimed.

Stephen Bevan, managing director of think-tank The Work Foundation, has said the telecoms giant should have kept its graduate recruitment scheme open to a small number of new candidates rather than close it altogether, to avoid damaging its employer brand.

The comments come as several firms, including steel giant Corus and smoothie maker Innocent Drinks, have cut their graduate recruitment programmes. A question mark also hangs over British Airways’ scheme, adding further unease to the ongoing pay row at the airline.

Bevan told Personnel Today: “It’s an understandable desire for BT to look for opportunities to reduce costs, but it’s a false economy. The future supply of talent has been overtaken by a short-sighted view of reducing discretionary expenditure.

“Careers advisers would be irresponsible not to mention to bright and talented graduates in future that BT ‘turns the tap on and off’ when it comes to its recruitment scheme. Some of the best talent will choose to work for other employers, where they know where they stand.”

Katherine Thomas, group talent and leadership director at BT, insisted the firm was still committed to hiring and developing graduates, but explained it had a short-term focus to redeploy staff who have been made redundant into any new roles where possible.

“We still have people joining us in 2010. Either they have deferred from this year or they are coming through from our undergraduate scheme. The decision not to recruit any more graduates through this scheme is a short-term tactical decision – the company has been focused on finding roles for existing staff that have been displaced due to the recession.”

Thomas added that two other schemes, an MBA programme and a fast-track option – which can include hiring recent graduates – would remain open, together taking approximately 100 positions per year.

“The other talent entry programmes we have are particularly important to make sure we still recruit the best talent,” she said.

BT also communicated its decision to close the graduate recruitment scheme to new entrants to careers advisers in July this year, to mitigate any risk to its employer brand.

Since 2005, BT has recruited 730 graduates through the recruitment scheme. This year, it will take 130 graduates but no new graduates will be able to apply for next year, Thomas said.

A survey by the Association of Graduate Recruiters released last month found that the number of graduate vacancies in the UK had fallen by 24.9% this year.

A number of employers, including PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte, Tesco, E’ON and Marks and Spencer, have guaranteed their graduate recruitment schemes would continue.

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