The annual Real Prospects: Higher Education report asked graduates about the careers advice they received at university, sparking a request for more information about opportunities with SMEs as they felt there was too much emphasis on the needs of students applying to blue-chip recruiters.
Mike Hill, chief executive at Graduate Prospects says: “The research shows that graduates would have liked more information on SME and niche sector careers when they were students. This could be due to realisation when leaving university that many of the positions available aren’t on big graduate training schemes.
“There is some perception that university careers services tend to focus on traditional graduate occupations and the big recruiters. The reality is that a huge amount of work is done at a local and regional level to link with smaller organisations both in terms of jobs and also internships. Students need to be realistic about their careers and recognise that the majority of them won’t be recruited by the blue-chips.
“But, while many smaller companies provide diverse and rewarding careers for graduates, they often don’t know how to best approach universities or have the resource to spend marketing themselves to enable them to compete effectively against larger businesses. We’ve come up with some tips to help SMEs start engaging and developing relationships with their local institutions.”
Tips on forging relationships with universities:
- Use social/professional networking media to identify employer engagement specialists at local universities
- Build personal contacts with key university careers service personnel
- Enquire about career development events and offer to present or attend to network with students
- Run a session on-campus to educate students about the sector you work in and the opportunities available with your business
- Create a case study about your organisation for the careers service, highlighting any graduates that you have recruited and opportunities available
- Offer a work experience placement – university contacts who can help can be found through the ‘Find Me a Student’ initiative at www.work-experience.org
Graduate Prospects works with the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS) to help businesses target students and graduates. Through Prospects, vacancies can be advertised with more than 80 career services nationally. The Scottish Shared Vacancy System enables employers to access 12 university careers services at once with their positions.
Hill concludes: “Students don’t always want to leave their university town on graduation and by engaging and working with universities, SMEs can not only improve their access to graduate talent but help build graduate knowledge of their business and sector.”