Graduates – good for business (blog post)


by Jenny Neville, Director

Getting experience in your chosen field after completing a university degree or even after a first job is not always easy. Not only has economic recovery been slow to get off the ground, but also the job market is becoming increasingly competitive at every level. On the other hand, the economic climate has meant that many businesses are looking at ways in which they can reduce costs whilst increasing productivity.

How, then, can graduates find the experience they need without competing against people with a number of years under their belt, and how can businesses bring talented individuals on board in way that is commercially viable? Graduate development programmes could be the answer.

Graduate development programmes – whatever your size

Graduate development programmes are a great way to meet in the middle. Although often associated with larger corporate organisations, they can bring great benefits to smaller businesses as well positively contributing to the community and helping individuals to gain employability skills and develop to their full potential.

Benefits for businesses and individuals

Benefits for businesses are numerous:

  • Graduates often have great potential and ambition and are great prospects for career development and succession planning, making a contribution to the company in the long term
  • Graduates bring fresh ideas into the business, providing advice and suggestions across every team they work with
  • Because they usually work within every business unit across their placement, they will have a good idea about which processes can be transferred across divisions to improve productivity and efficiencies
  • They are well-prepared for work, bringing a range of theoretical skills and knowledge of new technologies that can be applied within the workplace
  • Graduates are often happy at balancing multiple tasks and comfortable with a wide range of demands
  • They are often innovative, driven, flexible, enthusiastic learners, adapt well to new environments, and can become productive at a faster pace – at a reasonable cost!
  • They provide support to the head of service in the management and operation of the business unit and are also an extra resource to undertake projects that may be on the ‘backburner’
  • They contribute to a diverse talent pool
  • Graduate development programmes form part of your corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy by helping to build and develop sustainable communities through local employment, training, as well as facilitating career development.

For graduates, the perks are clear:

  • A jump start in their career
  • The ability to learn about different roles and different parts of the business
  • The opportunity to build management responsibility and experience from the early stages
  • Getting real-life work experience soon after leaving university
  • Gaining vital transferable skills
  • “Sampling” a given profession to help them make informed choices about their future career, and
  • The opportunity to prove themselves to an employer and potentially getting a permanent job.

Our experience

Our programme involves the recruitment of one management trainee on a two year cycle. During the two year programme, graduates learn the operational requirements of the business, undertaking rotational placements within each business unit. At the end of the term, the trainee will then specialise in a business unit undertaking a management role and hopefully take on a permanent management role in the company. At this point, we are then ready to take on the next graduate, and so on. Our graduates also sit on our business planning team, which provides them with strategic awareness and input, which in turn is another step towards achieving the goals of our succession strategy.

A key piece of advice when recruiting a new graduate, however, is to be as comprehensive as you would be in the recruitment of management staff. We undertake an initial assessment centre, with practical tasks tailored to the role, testing theoretical and practical/hands on skills – as well as common sense! This is followed by a presentation and interview of shortlisted candidates.

As an SME, people can be surprised that we run a graduate development programme, but in my experience, they bring much added value – and value for money – to the business, whilst enabling you to give something back to the community and to the individuals. Give it a try!

For more information about our graduate development programme, please contact our People Support Team or view our current graduate vacancies.