Students have no idea what graduate programmes are
Oprettet den: Thursday, 2. February 2017 - 13:40 / IDA
Why should I choose a graduate programme over a permanent position? What is the difference between a real job and a graduate programme? Now I have my degree, do I have to become an apprentice or a trainee again? Am I not just cheap labour? Am I paid an agreed salary, as in a permanent position?
“Companies are unclear in their communication with university students about the graduate programmes they offer”, such is the conclusion of a survey conducted by The Danish Society of Engineers IDA, Capax Recruitment and DSE, Student Business Relations with 335 students about to complete their degrees.
The students know very little about the actual graduate programmes, the fields of study the companies are looking for, the jobs the programmes can lead to, the skills the companies need and how the various graduate programmes differ from each other.
Get to know your target group!
The study shows that 84 percent of the students think it is important to have a mentor throughout the graduate programme, and 72 percent attach great importance to a personal development plan.
Jeanette Louise Rasmussen, Business Manager at Capax, a consulting and recruitment firm specialising in IT and engineering graduates, recommends that companies familiarise themselves with the target group of engineers, Masters of Science and IT professionals.
“Companies communicate to this group in the same way as they do to graduates of CBS, and it is misunderstood. Professional stories and themes are what get engineers’ juices flowing – not concepts promising that a graduate programme will accelerate their careers,” she says and continues:
“Engineers want to bring their professional skills into play, and are often keen to further specialise. Companies should instead let the students tell the narrative stories that engineers, Masters of Science and IT professionals can relate to. Precise stories about what you can achieve as a graduate.”
Tell the engineer about learning objectives
Rasmussen believes that companies must become better at showing that, as a graduate, it is possible to be both a specialist and, at the same time, break down silos and work across the organisation.
“In most graduate programmes, the company believes that what attracts graduates is the breadth of the job, preferably across different departments, but engineers prefer to work at depth, so this is what companies must combine with working across disciplines and departments, in order to get in touch with the entire value chain of the company,” advises Rasmussen.
“Can I get a mentor? And a personal development plan?” are important questions for engineers. They want to know about the actual content of the job – what task force assignments will they be involved with? What do they have to present to the Executive Board? What board should they help to establish?
“Tell the engineer about the learning objectives of the different rotations in different departments. If they are now on level 1 of their professional competency, then explain how they get up to level 10. Engineers want a specific development plan like this,” says Rasmussen.
Graduate programmes for specialists
The Capax manager drives home the fact that companies must ensure that graduate programmes are not only seen as a pathway to management.
“Companies must concentrate on having clear career paths so that specialists carry the same weight as managers. They need to think about communicating how the graduate can become a skilled specialist through their graduate programme,” she ascertains.
Meeting engineers at eye level
Gunnar Tindborg, Senior HR Manager of Organizational Development at Grundfos explains that the general branding materials aimed at graduates are relatively generic and do not address engineers and IT professionals specifically. But when Grundfos visits colleges and universities, the communication is adapted more specifically to the target group.
“When we visit DTU, for example, we take an engineering graduate with us, who can communicate with the candidates at eye level,” says Tindborg, adding that graduate vacancies are advertised globally.
Grundfos’ three graduate arguments
At Grundfos, we believe that a graduate programme looks good on a CV, and is a potential career accelerator. The training itself is a very exciting time of great personal and professional challenges, under the constant support of mentors and changing project owners, combined with individual competency development. The two-year programme includes four rotations, one of which takes place outside Denmark.
“We focus on the development of three capacities in our programme: An understanding of the business itself, the establishment of a wide network at Grundfos and, of course, the strengthening of functional skills, making them competitive with far more experienced job applicants from other companies,” says Tindborg and continues:
“The goal of the graduate programme is above all to strengthen our talent pipeline by training and retaining some talented young people on an exciting career path at Grundfos.”
IDA: Catch them fresh out of uni
Juliane Marie Neiiendam, chair of the Council of Employees (Ansattes Råd) believes that companies must make themselves attractive to graduates if they want to attract and retain talent, and thus become future winners.
“The response of the graduates is well in line with other IDA members seeking jobs. They want a mentor, so good management means a lot to them. And they want a personal development plan,” she says.
The chair of the Council of Employees believes that companies should catch the students as early as possible and hold on to them. Five years after graduating, they are difficult to catch.
“Forty-five percent of those questioned in the survey say that once students have their foot in the door of a company, they can see themselves being taken on permanently at the place where they had a student job. It is a good way for companies to get good employees who are fresh, possess the latest knowledge, are eager to make a difference, and they have no bad habits and do not bring a ‘we usually’ attitude with them,” says Neiiendam.
Low awareness of graduate programmes
As part of the study, the students assessed how they would rate their awareness of graduate programmes, with 1 being very low and 5 being very high. Below are the percentages of students who responded very low and low:
• 61 percent have low awareness of the duration of graduate programmes
• 82 percent have low awareness of the fields of study the companies are looking for in the respective graduate programmes
• 70 percent have low awareness of the jobs that a graduate programme might lead to
• 63 percent have low general awareness of graduate programmes offered by companies
• 79 percent have low awareness of what companies are looking for in applicants for graduate programmes
• 83 percent have low awareness of the professional content of the graduate programmes of the different companies
• 90 percent have low awareness of how the various graduate programmes differ from each other