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Category: Student support services
31 October 2023
Looking for your first step into the professional world after university? Graduate scheme applications are opening up now for work opportunities in 2024…
Essentially a graduate scheme is a paid entry-level training position within an organisation that is open to both undergraduates and postgraduates. They offer the opportunity to gain experience not only in your chosen field but often include rotations around different business areas. In large organisations there will often be an option of different schemes or “streams” – for example, as in the National Graduate Development Programme. and Civil Service.
"The number of graduates recruited in 2022 jumped by 14.5%, compared with graduate recruitment in 2021, the biggest-ever annual increase in graduate vacancies, taking graduate recruitment to its highest level yet."
Graduate Schemes usually last 1-2 years but sometimes more, and offer an excellent opportunity for new graduates to kick-start their working lives or for those looking at a career change. More often than not graduates will be offered a permanent position within the organisation on successful completion of their training scheme.
Whilst some specialisms or streams will be selective based on your degree subject and classification, many are open to graduates from all disciplines if they can demonstrate their transferable skills effectively. There are a huge number of opportunities for graduates in many industries and fields, from agriculture to marketing and from banking to the NHS. Good places to start include the Career Centre, Prospects, Bright Network – Graduate Jobs & Schemes, and Target Jobs – Graduate Schemes. When shortlisting organisations, it’s important to note closing dates and ideally start working on your applications as soon as possible to avoid any last-minute panic.
The graduate recruitment market is notoriously competitive, and with employers often paying good entry-level salaries (in effect paying you to be trained), it’s easy to see why. The application process is rarely as simple as submitting a CV, as most businesses rely on panel interviews, psychometric testing, and assessment centres to narrow down applicants.
For this reason, a non-focussed approach to applications isn’t usually successful for graduate schemes. It’s important to carefully research roles on offer and put together well-prepared applications to companies and organisations that look like the best fit. A few considered, targeted, and well-researched applications will be better received than many generic, rushed applications.
Any work experience, volunteering and extra-curricular activities you can discuss in your application and interview will help, as well as skills gained at university that are in demand, such as presenting with confidence and good self-awareness. Excellent time management and organisational skills are essential in the workplace, so anything that you can evidence would help – for instance, being able to balance a part-time job or raising a family during university studies.
In your spare time, it may also be worth looking at developing technical skills that you can add to your LinkedIn profile and talk about in interviews. For graduates looking to go into Finance for instance, that might include basic certification in Microsoft Excel, financial modelling or data analysis. In addition, any practice you can get in simulated panel interviews, role plays, case studies and assessment centres will be valuable, particularly if you haven’t had many job interviews before.
"The latest assessment of graduate recruitment at the UK’s top graduate employers shows that sentiment has improved over the past six months and there has been a noticeable increase in the number of graduates vacancies on offer in 2023."
Whilst 2023 is proving tough for many sectors, there are promising signs that the graduate jobs market will remain resilient, with the High Fliers survey suggesting that despite initial pessimistic signs, some companies are actually increasing their recruitment quotas for entry-level graduates.
It has always been a challenge to land the top graduate scheme places, but it isn’t an insurmountable one. With a good amount of effort, research and well-thought-through applications they can be a great route to a great career.
Your Employability Service team can support you with your search for Graduate Schemes, applications and practice interviews. Visit at Drop-In or make an appointment to talk to an Employability & Careers Adviser. Events such as Futures Festival (30 October-10 November) are great ways to prepare to apply - and meet potential employers - and some will be offering Graduate Schemes.
Jason Albon, Corporate Analyst, News UK (ARU Alumnus & Guest Author)
Our Employability Service works with students throughout their time at ARU and after they graduate. The Service offers careers advice, online resources, and help with job searches, applications and interview preparation. Our Employability & Careers Advisers may mention some of these resources and services in their blogs, to give you an idea of the careers support that's on offer at ARU. Some of these resources sit behind a log in and can only be accessed by current students.