Who would be a student in 2012?

Monday, January 30th, 2012 - Student Jobs


Who would be a student in 2012?

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There have been a number of reports and statistics released in the last week, that bring about the question: who would be a student in 2012?

The first was an European Union report, which confirmed that average unemployment across Europe was presently running at 10%.

The second was a report by the Association of Graduate Recruiters, that turned the spotlight on the quality of graduates when it showed that 1/3rd of all graduate vacancies from 2011 still remain unfulfilled in 2012. The report goes further in concluding that many graduate recruiters are now looking at recruiting school and college leavers instead, seeing them as stronger than graduates.

The third was a report by the Higher Education Policy Institute, entitled Institutional Diversity in UK Higher Education, that highlighted the change in courses being offered over the past 10 years. HEPI showed that:

  • Physics courses had reduced by 32%, now being offered at just 47 universities
  • Chemistry courses had reduced by 20%, now being offered at just 60 universities
  • Production engineering was down by 22%, now being offered at just 51 universities
  • However, on the rise were:
  • Media Studies, increased from 37 to 111 institutes, a rise of 200%
  • Journalism, from 16 to 68, a rise of 325%
  • Cinematics, from 37 to 85, a rise of 130%

The fourth and final report was from UCAS about University applications, which the headline figure was that applications were down by 8.7% across the United Kingdom. This is the year in which fees in England are rising to up to £9,000 per year, so it showed the biggest fall – down by 9.9%. Wales and Scotland whose devolved administrations have decided to take on some or all of the rises, have shown lower reductions. The biggest reductions nationally are from those from middle-class areas, and mature students.

So in summary, there is: higher unemployment; the courses are more arts orientated; which means that you are less employable on graduation; but at least there is less competition!

Personally, the focus of the last few years – numbers going into the university and higher education system – fails when you see the output report. But that has been pushed by the incentives that schools get to push their students towards higher education. When students make those choices, there are two things on their mind: money; and jobs!
Now, when less than 10% of the population went into higher education, the grand theory was that if you had a degree, you were employed for life. This was because you could get a degree in subject X, and get employed in marketY. Now when nearly 60% of A-Level school leavers are entering higher level education, that theory just doesn’t work. Now, true that dropouts have increased, but the level of education being gained seems to have dropped as well. Hence why employers are going back to school leavers, so gain stronger – and more malleable – employees.

What is the solution? Most of the employers forums conclude that there is a need for stronger ties between schools, higher education and industry. The fact that that is not occurring results in employers going back to recruit school leavers.

My personal second conclusion is that there needs to be stronger effort on fee’s subsidy with regards key skills. The Migration Advisory Committee can not keep approving Maths and Sciences teachers to come into the UK, when our own universities are not creating enough and don’t have a plan to address the gap.

If you are graduating this year, then what? The report suggests that students are simply “spraying” numerous job applications around, and expecting a result. Ah, no! If you don’t want to do what you have been trained for or your degree is in, then start making connections now into the profession of your choice to understand what the conversion system is, how long it takes, and what it costs. Most importantly, find out what it requires of an employer.

All graduates need to start making local professional connections in the geographic area that you want to work, now! Making a list of preferred employers, and start working your way through them. Don’t just spray in a CV and cover letter – it won’t work! Using either networking sites like LinkedIn or local connections through the local branch of your professional society to meet suitable local employers: you need to be inside to be employed.

Longer term strategic issues in the continually widening chasm between higher education and industry have been known for a while now, and yet still are not being addressed. Perhaps more worrying in the immediacy of addressing rising youth unemployment is the quality of graduates. But both need to be politically solved, and if you are searching for a job this summer, then neither will comfort your soul or choices.

So start now, and get your self an effective Professional CV. Then direct it like an arrow – don’t throw it like a blanket – at key employers that you have researched and made a connection with. Employment isn’t difficult, you just have to make an effort.

Good Luck!

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