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How can businesses develop a top grad scheme to attract the best graduate talent?

Posted on from Unicom

With thousands of university students set to graduate this summer and a lack of available jobs, graduate unemployment has never been so high. Chris Earle discusses how employers can harness their graduate schemes to effectively draw in the right candidates and stay in tune with graduates’ needs.

The pull of graduate schemes: Benefits for all

Graduate schemes offer Benefits to employees as well as employers. We have found introducing graduates into our business has brought new eyes into the company and fresh ideas.

Placing graduates in every department of the company allows them to provide feedback and suggestions on which processes are working, what may need changing and how skills can transfer across departments to benefit the wider company.

Graduates also provide raw talent which can be shaped into targeted and focused employees who can make a long term contribution to the development of the company.

It’s not just good for businesses - graduates can jump-start their careers through dedicated schemes and have the opportunity to gain greater responsibility, while also building a firm base of contacts.

Stay in tune with graduates by listening to them

In today’s fast moving business world, there are always new technologies and ways to do business. Often graduates are at the forefront of these new developments.

Do not assume you know what is best for graduates; they have a lot of insight, so listen to the feedback they provide. Ensure you develop open dialogue with your graduates, giving them the freedom to express themselves and voice concerns and ideas. Don’t be scared to give them different projects or tasks which test their ability. This will only help them to develop their skills set.

It's important to have a structured plan in place for graduate schemes, but be prepared to be flexible if a certain element needs to be changed or removed. Bear in mind your graduates have applied to your scheme because they believe they can offer the business a long term benefit and they would like to be rewarded for providing this.

How can businesses make grad schemes stand out?

Graduates who apply to schemes do so because they want a career path, not just an out-of-university job. Some may select companies which offer the best paying scheme, however many graduates seek out programmes which offer potential within the company.

You need to illustrate to potential candidates what your scheme offers, plan for their long-term development and how this differentiates from other graduate opportunities.

Use your website as a tool to attract potential graduates. An up-to-date graduate page outlining the elements of your programme and testimonials from previous graduates is a great way of encouraging individuals to apply. 

Offer grads a depth & breadth of experience

We have found a rotational structure during the scheme provides candidates with the opportunity to show off their talents over a broad range of sectors.

Showing graduates they can make a difference to a company prompts them to stand out from the crowd and pushes them to achieve excellence in every task.

By giving them various tasks, they uncover skills and interests they didn’t know they had, allowing us to use them more efficiently.

Downfalls of graduate schemes

Graduate schemes take time and cost money and many companies don’t realise the commitment they take before launching one.

During the current recession, many companies have had to cut down or stop their graduate schemes due to budget slashes.

Consider focusing on a small group (three to six graduates) which means you can control costs and give sufficient time and attention to make the experience worthwhile, helping individuals to develop to a high standard.

This will also allow senior staff to get to know the graduates better, ensuring they are in a good position to judge the role the graduate should undertake at the end of the scheme.

From graduate to department head - case study

When Wai Lee started the Unicom graduate scheme in January 2007, little did he know that three years later he would be managing the development of new company, Titan Telecom, which is a subsidiary of Unicom.

After graduating from Manchester Metropolitan University, where he studied financial services, Wai was attracted to Unicom’s graduate scheme due to its fast track 12 month programme with rotational placements.

Wai commented:

"The Unicom graduate scheme provided me with invaluable information and insight in not only the telecoms industry but also UK business. The breadth of knowledge I acquired from the different departments I worked in was immense.

"It also illustrated to me how departments across the business inter-link with each other and how important it is to communicate to work effectively as a team. Completing a graduate scheme has given me a firm foundation for my career in telecoms."

Beyond the grad scheme - additional training

Completion of a graduate scheme shouldn’t mark the end and doesn’t mean that they want to stop developing, learning and honing skills. To draw the best out of staff, employers must continue offering additional training as a vital way to develop talent within the company.

Unicom offer two schemes to our staff; the first is Aspire to Inspire where staff are given the opportunity to apply for additional training provided by an external body. If the training is relevant to the employees’ role and beneficial to their job performance, then Unicom will fund the course. The second training scheme offers staff free NVQ courses. These two schemes have a direct and positive influence on employees’ roles at work.

Not only does additional training help the individual to progress in their role, this new found knowledge can also educate and inspire those around them.

Unicom

Unicom

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