Graduate schemes: the good, the bad and the ugly?

Posted by Kate Murray on 23 September 2015

The_Gherkin_by_Flickr_user_neilalderney123_used_under_CC_BY-NC_2.0Shiny suits, polished shoes, reflective glass windows and vast reception areas.  These all seem to be indicators of the sorts of people and companies that offer graduate training schemes.  All often seem terribly attractive to students keen to be finding well-paid and ‘graduate level’ work at the end of their studies.

This post looks at some of the pros and cons of applying for the schemes.

About graduate schemes

A quick look at the grad schemes we advertise on JobOnline shows that they are offered across the public sector, estate agency, software companies as well as the ones you might normally consider in the City: finance, insurance, consultancy etc. 

Many of these schemes will typically expose their graduates to different areas of the company – there might be a rotation within a specific division or even across divisions.  You’ll usually be part of  a ‘cohort’ of other graduates which will form your peer group as you progress through the company and will be your network.  You’re often assigned a buddy or mentor, and very often you’re expected complete a professional qualification as part of the graduate scheme.

Employers expect to recruit even more graduates onto these schemes in the 2015 recruiting season, with PwC and Deloitte between them taking around 2700 graduates.  Find out more about the numbers, pay and salary at this report.

Often, when we’re talking to graduate alumni who are perhaps five to ten years out of university, we find that they may have completed a grad scheme in a big firm, and then moved on, either to a small firm or even to start up their own firms.  Graduate schemes can therefore provide a fantastic basic business knowledge.

So far, so good.  What’s not to like, about these schemes?

Well, you have to be very organised, motivated and committed to get onto the schemes.  According to High Fliers, 31% of the places available this year are expected to be filled by students who have already worked at the firms, in summer internships.  So, if you want to work somewhere after you’ve graduated, you need to have thought about it in the summer of your first year, to be prepared for the early deadlines for the summer internship schemes available at the end of your second year.  Some firms will give preference to applicants who have completed the first year Easter programmes, meaning you will have had to decide within a couple of months of starting at university that you’re going to give it a go.

The numbers of places available on graduate schemes is affected by the changes in the economy, and the skill of the workforce planners at the firms involved at developing a pipeline of talent for their firms.  So in economically bad years, the numbers of places will decrease, and now of course they’re increasing.

You’re not necessarily guaranteed a job at the end of a graduate scheme though of course if you’ve shown competence, the firm will be keen to keep you to recoup the cost of having trained you if the business needs your role. Some graduates may find the nature of the structured rotations quite limiting and it’s possible that working in a smaller firm might give you exposure to a greater range of job roles.

The application process can be gruelling with several rounds of applications and interviews to go through.  International students may find some of these big firms are well set-up to understand visa issues but others may be less prepared.  Find out as much as you can about the expectations placed on junior staff for travel: you may find, that some of the projects that staff are involved in are not set at the glitzy London offices, but outside of London and involve staying in hotels for weeks at a time. 

What do you think?  Do you want to put in the time and energy required to research and apply to these organisations?  Book a conversation with your careers service to find out more, use their library resources and these blogs to help you in your decision-making.

Find graduate schemes on JobOnline

The Gherkin by Flickr user neilalderney123 used under CC BY-NC 2.0

Topics: Jobs and Internships, job hunting, career choice

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