GraduatesThe Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) and the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS) have today (24 May 2013) published a series of recommendations for the Government, employers, universities and careers services, aimed at levelling the playing field in graduate recruitment.

AGR and AGCAS have made the recommendations in a new publication – Graduate Success: The HEAR and Now – to mark the culmination of a series of projects undertaken by the organisations, with funding from the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS).

One of the projects looked at whether employers were restricting access to graduate jobs of those from disadvantaged backgrounds, and found that some employers are, unknowingly and unintentionally, using recruitment methods that present barriers to sections of the graduate population. Common barriers include employers making decisions on the basis of a graduate’s educational achievements in the form of degree classifications, and experience gained through unpaid internships being looked on favourably, rather than assessing the candidates’ ability to do the job on an equal basis.

Some employers are leading the way in fair and transparent recruitment, and as a result are seeing clear business benefits including opening up a larger talent pool, increasing the skills base and more accurately reflecting the diversity of the organisation’s customers.

A second project looked at how employers and graduates were responding to the introduction of the Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR), and found that there was some initial nervousness about incorporating a new and untested student achievement report into the graduate recruitment process.

However, larger employers and careers services are now beginning to recognise the value the HEAR will bring to graduates as it starts the process of being able to articulate their experiences more effectively as well as increasing self-awareness and confidence. For employers, it describes a student’s entire university journey, coupled with the report being ratified by the institution, and gives a far greater insight into the person that could potentially be joining their organisation.

The final project – looking at how graduates from a variety of backgrounds make the transition to the employment market – found that many are leaving higher education without clear career ideas, with limited awareness of the wider jobs market and feel they lack the time to devote to career planning. A key detrimental effect of this is that they place a disproportionate emphasis on large employers as the primary source of jobs, creating huge competition for places, and fail to appreciate the opportunities within SMEs. There is also strong evidence that graduates with fewer social advantages are less likely to apply for graduate jobs and to participate in extra-curricular activities.

The publication calls for:

Employers to
review entry requirements to ensure social mobility isn’t restricted and common barriers, such as unpaid internships, are eliminated
use the HEAR and include it in the recruitment process, as it gives a much clearer idea of the person potentially joining the organisation
Higher education and career services to
embed career planning into the curriculum and engage students from first year
explore how work experience can be built into courses to ensure all students have access to workplace opportunities
Government to
encourage universities and their careers advisory services to work with SMEs to raise awareness of job opportunities available to graduates, as well as to promote the benefits of the HEAR
encourage employers to sign up to the Business Compact, showing their commitment to, and backing of, the social mobility agenda
Carl Gilleard, Chief Executive of the AGR, said: “We are really pleased to have accomplished much of what we set out to do in a relatively short timeframe, however there is still much more to achieve. This is why we have set out a series of recommendations for all who have a role to play in levelling the playing field in graduate recruitment – from employers and businesses to universities and their career services, and of course the government.

“I would also like to thank Barclays for generously seconding Jane Clark, Head of Corporate and Investment Banking Campus Recruitment, Europe and Asia, to the AGR to lead these projects for the organisation.”

Paul Redmond, President of AGCAS, added: ““AGCAS welcomed the opportunity to collaborate with AGR on this important and detailed research project, which will help raise awareness of graduate transitions in the job market in the context of social mobility. There is still work to be done. Our focus now, through our alliance with HE careers and employability services, is on working with employers and relevant government departments to promote the benefits to all of making the social mobility agenda integral to graduate recruitment strategies – and thereby ensuring that ‘graduate success’ isn’t defined by social advantage.”

Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said: “We want to make the most of the great wealth of graduate talent we have in the UK. To do that we must ensure that all graduates with the right skills have the same access to job opportunities, regardless of their background or choice of university.

“The challenge now is for businesses, recruiters and universities to consistently provide real opportunities for talented new graduates, so I warmly welcome the excellent work being done by AGR and AGCAS to encourage businesses to recruit graduates fairly and openly.”