Help graduates to become ‘oven-ready’ for life at work

Looking to recruit top-quality graduates? Employers should invest more in
organising work placements. That way, they will reap huge benefits from
enthusiastic students queuing up for work experience

I frequently hear employers bemoaning graduates’ lack of understanding of
the workplace and of the key employability skills they consider essential in
new recruits. But how can graduates acquire these competencies if employers
consistently fail to provide quality work-placement opportunities?

It’s a classic chicken and egg situation that businesses must address if
they are to secure the quality staff they desire.

Indeed, I would say employers are missing a trick by overlooking the
benefits a work-placement student can bring to their companies, and the savings
they can make on recruitment expenses if they select wisely and view each
student placement as an extended interview.

The recent National Graduate Media Audit surveyed more than 100 graduate
recruiters, asking them what they believed to be the most effective route to
recruiting top-quality graduates. The recruiters cited all manner of media,
ranging from directories and magazines to careers fairs, websites and employer
presentations. Yet what do you suppose topped the list as the number one most
effective method? You guessed, work experience/internships.

In addition to the potential savings on recruitment costs, work-placement
students can bring other benefits. How many companies have ideas on the back
burner that fail to reach development stage because of lack of time or
manpower? A student on placement can provide the perfect resource to tackle
such projects, or even free up a permanent member of staff to progress them.

Developing IT systems, creating websites and undertaking market research are
just some projects students can undertake. They can also provide access to
university resources and bring knowledge of new technologies, which might
otherwise pass the company by.

Work experience students can also bring a fresh pair of eyes to spot new
opportunities and could suggest effective new working practices which permanent
personnel may never see, through being so close to the business.

The National Council for Work Experience, through its Work Experience
Awards, has hard evidence of work-placement students who have turned companies
around with their innovative thinking. Yet it is clear successful work experience
is a two-way process; if employers provide a good brief and adequate support,
they will reap the benefits of having an intelligent and enthusiastic employee.

It is time recruiters stopped complaining that their graduate starters are
not ‘oven-ready’, and started investing in initiatives that provide them with
opportunities to become so. Recruiters say work experience works. Now, as we
move towards the summer term and students begin to look for summer holiday
placements, it is time to put their money where their mouth is and come forward
in much larger numbers to provide quality work-placements.

By Liz Rhodes, Director, National Council for Work Experience

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