We need more graduate-level jobs, not apprenticeships

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Having finished my last exam, I’m soon to join the unemployed graduate population. Despite my best efforts and several interviews over the last few months, I have as yet been unable to secure an entry-level or graduate-level job, and the prospect of returning home with nothing on the horizon is rather worrying. What is more worrying, however, is the sheer lack of variety in graduate-level jobs being offered.

Recently, a report into apprenticeships found that a significant number of apprenticeships for school and college leavers were being taken by over-25s who were already in employment. When we think about it, this is hardly surprising. The prospect of a secure job (despite the low wage), with the chance to gain on-the-job technical skills, and the high chance of securing full-time work afterwards is certainly tempting for any age group. For us graduates, though, the majority of careers fairs are filled with companies looking to hire salespeople, engineers, managers, accountants, teachers or lawyers. As an English graduate wanting to start a career in copywriting and copyediting, getting a foot in the door is nigh on impossible. Looking back, if there had been an apprenticeship within the media – as I have seen advertised now – I would have taken it with open arms over a degree.

The fact is that in this time of austerity, even if the economy is slowly improving, it is well known that the last thing to pick up will be the jobs market. The Conservatives consistently said during the general election that they would invest in more and more apprenticeships to get young people into work, but I’d much rather see a greater variety of graduate jobs on offer. It is tiring the amount of times people have assumed I want to become a teacher because I (will hopefully) have an English degree in a couple of months’ time, and it is even more exasperating to see increasingly corporate and sales- or management-led opportunities peppering the graduate job market.

There seems to be an assumption among politicians that only those of school-leaving age need help finding work. The truth is that graduates need help too. We all know by now that having a degree is not enough to secure employment, and it would be refreshing to see careers fairs and the government embracing alternative employment choices such as those in the arts. It may be true that more apprenticeships are needed, and young people do need a push to find their vocation if university is not for them. But I don’t see why graduates are left pretty much to their own devices. Unless you’re lucky enough to want a career in a corporate environment, the rest of us end up falling into postgraduate study. It’s no wonder a lot of older people over 25 are seeking apprenticeships; the prospect of secure employment in place of the soul-eroding option of searching for an entry-level job is certainly attractive.

Unfortunately for us, things seem to be getting worse rather than better. A survey done by totaljobs.com in 2013 found that nearly a third of companies complain that graduates lack the appropriate skills, while nearly 60% said they find recruiting for entry-level roles difficult. As such, these firms turn to apprenticeships because they receive government funding and can therefore shape their employees’ skills from the very beginning to fill their own skills gap. It’s common sense. But it makes entry-level roles for graduates even more difficult to find. Apprenticeships are a great way of targeting school leavers and getting them into employment, but graduates should be given that entry-level opportunity as well, instead of being forced to do work experience for free and for an indefinite period of time with little to no chance of a job being offered at the end of it. Not all graduates are the same, and graduates do have the right skills; it is just a matter of finding one of the few companies that appreciate those skills enough to offer you a job.

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