Unemployed HR graduates urged not to quit the profession

Unemployed HR graduates must be patient and not retrain for another career despite the profession’s slow recovery and lack of vacancies, employers have insisted.

The Monster Employment Index revealed this week that job opportunities in HR remained flat – despite signs that other industries such as education, training, hospitality and tourism were seeing an increase in job availability by up to 22%.

The figures came as official statistics revealed youth unemployment had increased by 15,000 to 943,000, while a report by the Higher Education Careers Services Unit recently found one in 10 students who graduated in 2008 was still out of work – an increase of 44% and the highest rate since 1995-96.

Carl Gilleard, chief executive of the Association of Graduate Recruiters, warned HR graduates’ broad training could tempt them to seek opportunities outside the profession.

Employers warned against increasing academic entry requirements

Top graduate recruiters have warned against employers raising entry requirements based on academic achievements to cope with the rising volume of applications.

It emerged last week that supermarket Sainsbury’s had raised the entry criteria of its graduate scheme to a 2.1, and made work experience compulsory. Business services company Accenture has upped requirements to two As and a B at A-level, and professional services firm KPMG now demands an A and two Bs at A-level.

But Stockton said: “If you begin to utterly define talent by just Ucas tariff points at A-level, you are beginning to deselect in some cases a huge number of talented individuals.”

Bob Athwal, head of graduate recruitment at energy firm Npower, added: “There’s a danger that [employers] may be disengaging with some serious talent. Just because you have a 2.1 doesn’t mean you are the best person for the opportunity.”

He told Personnel Today: “If you have a broad range of training and the profession doesn’t provide enough stimulus and opportunities, then people will go on to do other things.”

But graduate recruiters and HR experts urged university leavers to be patient and seek work experience or voluntary work that would help to boost their skills and business knowledge.

Sonja Stockton, head of graduate recruitment at the UK’s top graduate employer Pricewaterhouse-
Coopers, said: “My advice would be if you can’t get a dedicated HR job, see where you can gain real commercial, business experience, which eventually can only add value to your skillset within HR.”

She also revealed that the professional services firm was looking to launch an HR graduate scheme in the near future.



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