First, you were told that a degree would lead to a good graduate job. Then, you were told you’d need a degree and several months of experience before you’d be considered for these roles. Now, graduate recruiters have changed their minds again, saying what they really want you to have is no degree – and two or three years of work experience instead.

A study by Santander has revealed that two thirds of employers would prefer to hire a school leaver with two years work experience over a recent graduate, with 80% favouring a school leaver with three years work experience over someone with a degree.

Of the 400 firms polled – from sectors including IT, manufacturing, financial services and education – 60% of employers claim that it “makes no difference” if candidate has a degree or not when considering them for a job.

Richard O’Flynn, Talent & Leadership Development manager at Santander, said:

“The survey results demonstrate that employers are open-minded about the various talent pools that they recruit from.”

“Open-minded”? Try schizophrenic. All the way through school, an entire generation of young people has been told that having a degree will lead to a better job than not having a degree. Their parents said it, their school said it, politicians said it – and employers said it.

And now they’re suddenly announcing that the reverse is true – like it’s no big deal that hundreds of thousands of young people have apparently wasted tens of thousands of pounds studying, when they should have got a job at 18. Well, thanks for nothing.

Recruiters are positively queuing up to bash graduates. Writing for yesterday’s Huffington Post, Jane Scott Paul, Chief Executive of the Association of Accounting Technicians (accountants), could hardly contain her excitement about all the ways that school-leavers are better than graduates, saying:

School leavers on apprenticeship schemes have a strong sense of pride and willingness to learn. They don’t come with huge expectations and are aware how lucky they are to be earning, training and working at the same time. They also tend to have a good work ethic and are used to a school routine – this lends itself well to the office environment.

School leavers also have a strong sense of loyalty to their employer and apprentice scheme. They invest in the business and the business invests in them. This sense of worth instils confidence in the school leaver and as they climb the career ladder they inevitably add more value to the business. School leavers are not just stop-gapping before something better comes along.

Serious questions need to be asked about why schools, parents and politicians are still encouraging hundreds of thousands of young people to go to university — when employers say they don’t value the qualifications that graduates are coming out with. How many more young people are going to make this costly mistake before something is done to halt this madness?

Graduate Fog also has serious concerns about how exactly young people are expected to obtain these two or three years of ‘work experience’. As anyone who’s picked up a newspaper in the last year will know, the jobs market for young people isn’t exactly a smorgasbord of glittering opportunity. The latest unemployment figures showed that 949,000 16-24 year olds are unemployed — that’s more than one in 20.

Of course, there are plenty of unpaid internships (endless slave labour with no paid work even on the horizon), but actual jobs paying actual money are a bit thin on the ground these days. So are these years of work experience supposed to be unpaid? If so, how are you supposed to live? And if these positions are paid, where are they?

Where are all these jobs with great prospects for bright young 18-year-olds? Because I haven’t seen many. Even applicants for unpaid internships must have a degree these days.

It’s also worth noting that under UK National Minimum Wage law an 18-year-old’s work is worth less than a 21-year-old’s work, simply because of their age. If you’re between 18 and 20, your work is worth a measly £4.92 an hour (as opposed to a pitiful £5.93 if you’re over 21). Apprenticeships — widely lauded as the solution to youth unemployment — pay a shameful £2.50 an hour. That’s £20 a day.

When Graduate Fog asked Santander to clarify exactly what form this super-valuable work experience takes and where all these fabulous jobs are, they were unable to provide answers. Their spokesperson admitted that the wording of the survey had not specified the whereabouts of this mythical work and whether it would be paid or unpaid.

Graduate Fog feels that this is yet another example of employers’ moving the goalposts — and blaming young people for the fact that they can’t be bothered to train you to do the job, and they’re too tight-fisted to train you while you work for them.

There is a huge gap between what the recruiters say they value, and how realistic it is for someone to fill their ever-changing list of demands. What are these jobs that these employers say will impress them more than a degree — and where are they?

Many graduates reading this will be painfully aware that this isn’t just about a tough market for jobs — there is also a tough market for experience. Many unpaid internships require a degree in a relevant field as a minimum — and often previous experience on top of that.

It is easy enough for recruiters to say that they would consider people with experience and no degree, but the reality is you often need a degree in the first place to get that experience. These recruiters have revealed that they are completely are out of touch — and in making these nonsensical demands they betray a generation of bright young people.

*Are recruiters talking rubbish?
Have you seen many good jobs out there for bright 18-year-olds? As hard as it is for graduates to find work, do young people without a degree have it even tougher? If you’re interning or working now, could you have been considered for the position without a degree?

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap