Jobs previously ear-marked for graduates are now going to school-leavers, according to a new survey. The research – by talent management consultancy SHL – is likely to be viewed as bad news by graduates seeking work this summer.

71% of small businesses (SMEs) say they have started – or expect – to consider school leavers for roles previously reserved for university graduates. SHL’s Vice President, Sean Howard, explained that many recruiters feel that graduates are falling short of recruiters’ expectations:

“We are actually seeing more and more graduate recruiters turn to A-level recruitment schemes …[and] considering candidates’ attributes beyond qualifications. A 2:1 doesn’t guarantee a motivated candidate who will stay with your organisation. A dedicated A Level student who can demonstrate the core competencies and potential you need could be a better option.

“We are not saying that degrees have no value at all, but there is significant research to say that academic qualifications are not very predictive in terms of job success. We recently conducted research with a major global graduate recruiter that concluded that a 2:1 degree isn’t predictive of job performance.”

In other words – and despite what many young people have been led to believe – graduates are wrong to assume that having a degree makes them a more attractive candidate than their rivals without one.

If this is true, it raises the question: If you can get a decent job without a degree, why the hell are young people still being encouraged to spend over £30k on going to university?

SHL told Graduate Fog they welcomed the new findings, calling it ‘encouraging’ for those 18-year-olds who have been deterred from attending university because of high tuition fees.

That may be so. But Graduate Fog thinks the hundreds and thousands of young people who have invested in a university education will have a different view. For them, these findings only means one thing – fewer jobs for graduates.

Despite the rise in tuition fees, there has been no evidence of a decline in the number of people going to university. It therefore follows that by deciding to consider school-leavers for ‘graduate’ positions, companies will be effectively displacing university graduates from jobs once ear-marked for them.

There was some good news, however – 64% of companies said they would be prepared to help graduates with re-paying their student loan in order to attract the best candidates. And there is a chance that loan-payback schemes (already being trialled) could become more popular with the big graduate recruiters, as employers begin to understand that when you’re deep in debt, money talks. As Howard explained:

“We have already seen some larger graduate recruiters — like GSK and KPMG – offering this kind of financial support [to graduates]. It seems clear that in light of the fact that a university education will potentially cost £9k per annum, graduate recruiters have responded to students facing financial difficulties by introducing this kind of talent attraction scheme. It remains to be seen over the next year or two how these kind of schemes will evolve and whether they will become the norm.”

Graduate Fog is concerned that only the big companies will be able to afford to do this (possibly creating a two-tier recruitment system?) But hey, I guess it’s nice to know that at least somebody values your education…

*Are you alarmed to hear graduate roles are going to school-leavers?
Do you think it’s fair? Are employers are undervaluing university degrees? Would you have gone to university if you thought that companies would employ you for the same job, without a degree?

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