This week EEF published its latest policy report – Improving the quality and quantity of graduate-level skills. It found that manufacturers rely on the recruitment of graduates to fill many of their higher-level skills roles.
64% of companies have recruited a graduate in the past three years.
As manufacturers continue to focus their efforts on launching new products and services and entering into new markets, there is demand for graduates across degree disciplines; however in most demand are engineering graduates with 66% of manufacturers planning to recruit an engineering graduate in the next three years.
Such demand brings two fundamental challenges:
- To improve the quality of current supply.
- To increase the quantity of graduate-level skills supply.
Whilst manufacturers are recruiting graduates, they face challenges in doing so.
Today's blog focuses on the challenge of recruiting graduates with industry experience.
One of the common features manufacturers are looking for when recruiting a graduate is experience in industry. There are ranges of ways this can be achieved including undertaking an industrial placement, sandwich course or internship. Whilst it is acknowledged that a placement year improves employability, the number of placement years are in decline.
Placements are however fairly common practice amongst manufacturers with four in ten companies currently offer industrial placements and the same again offer internships
Size barriers when it comes to firms' ability to offer such opportunities. Larger companies are more likely to offer placements (69%) than medium and small firms (36% and 25% respectively).
Companies are most likely to cite time (37%) and cost (34%) as barriers to offering placements and internships
Overcoming these barriers plays a critical role if we are to increase the number of STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) qualifiers.
Some 63% of manufacturers think increasing the number of placements and internships will increase the number of learners studying STEM at HE level.
Clearly, manufacturers demand graduates with industry experience, but graduates can only gain that experience if companies offer such opportunities. Moreover, universities need to be offering STEM courses which include placement years.
Whilst engineering courses at higher education institutions generally have a better reputation for offering placements, more are needed.
This will be a challenge as employers are required to offer these placements, and as we have already alluded to, larger companies are more able to do so. What is needed then is a brokering service which could support businesses and universities to deliver more placements and help firms plan a mutually beneficial year in industry.
Industry experience is key. Indeed over half of companies responding to a previous EEF skills survey said their recruitment difficulties stemmed from candidates lacking industry experience.
Graduates can get ahead of the game when entering the jobs market if they have relevant experience under their belt. For employers they have graduate candidates with the right mix of technical knowledge and practical experience.
- All higher education courses should include an optional placement year for undergraduates to ensure they gain industry experience before quality
- A brokering service should be introduced to drive this increase in placements. To prevent duplication an existing platform – the Talent Retention Solution – should be expanded to offer such a service.
- To offset the cost of offering placements, a direct financial grant should be made directly to the employer and not through an intermediary.