One of these, that the Guardian highlights, is that over half of the current graduating year (53%) believe that they will be able to buy a house/flat within 5 years of graduating. However, only 19% of 25 year-olds are home-owners, which leads me to believe that 34% of graduates have failed to learn anything about reality in their years at university.
This is, of course, not their fault. By their own admission, most go into university to learn more about a subject, become more independent and to learn more about life. What it doesn’t teach you about is working life and the rewards/hardships that go with it. And for that I put some of the blame on the media and some on the Careers Services. My main issue that most graduates are looking for graduate jobs. They have been told that they will receive structured training, that the starting average salary for them is £25,000, that they are the future leaders of the company.
But the large employers that have all these things make up just 15% of the graduate job market. SMEs (Small/medium enterprises, or those organisations with less than 500 employees) make up 60% of the workforce in the UK. So the large companies may have a lot more graduate jobs each but there are more SMEs, and therefore the majority of graduate jobs will be with them.
Why do we not hear about SMEs and graduates? Why do the majority of graduates not even think about going to SMEs first, but save them until they have exhausted the Milkround? You can argue that it has to do with the lesser salary, the lack of corporate mobile phones, the fewer benefits, the lack of any structured graduate training. I like to blame these guys.
Whether you agree with me or not, you cannot deny the sheer power of AGR’s press office. They are amazing, churning out stats from the same reports over several months to create a never ending tide of scare stories for graduates. 70 graduates competing for every place, they proclaim. Carl Gilleard is bloody everywhere, proclaiming on A-Levels, jobs, skills, education, anything to do with graduates. Except his organisation focuses mainly on the 15% of graduate employers (they have an e-membership for SMEs but a quick flick through their membership list shows an impressive slant towards the big guns of employment like Proctor and Gamble etc).
This is why I think he needs to at least redress the balance. When I was graduating, I didn’t think there were careers for graduates outside of these large organisations. I had absolutely no clue that smaller organisations hired graduates, and gave them training and development opportunities most grads on these big schemes would die for. I was lucky. I found this out, although I found it out without the help of my Careers Service or any other service other than Google. And I had to go through Work Experience to get my low paying job (£16,000) of Junior Account Executive in a tiny PR firm. I don’t think my path is uncommon.
So why the hell does no one talk about the ‘hidden’ graduate jobs that are out there? Maybe the truth of the matter is that £150 a week experience to get a £16,000 position is not the ‘sexy’ aspiration that the government want to show people who will pay £3,225 a year for university. Face it, any maths student will say that it just doesn’t add up.