Graduate+: Recruiters invest in work experience and sponsorship deals

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The Independent Online
Employers are starting to implement one of the key recommendations of the Dearing committee on higher education by expanding their use of work experience and sponsorship schemes, according to the latest annual survey from the Association of Graduate Recruiters published this week.

Nearly three-quarters of the members of the association who responded to the survey offered work experience and about 40 per cent of organisations offered sponsorships to final-year students in 1997. And the number of sponsorship places is expected to rise still further this year.

Work experience schemes were seen as a benefit for both students and employers. "They allow access to potential recruits and are sometimes used as a selection tool, for example, to a sponsorship scheme or to an assessment centre," says the report, prepared for the association by researchers at the Institute for Employment Studies.

Employers value the quality of students' work and appreciate the additional help they receive, while some see it as a means of raising their profile, it adds. For students, the placements provide experience and offer them a chance to test out career options.

A further advantage for students is that they can gain higher salaries if they have participated in work-experience or sponsorship schemes. Some employers even have "see you again" deals under which students are offered a lump sum if they take up a job at the end of their studies.

The report, "Graduate Salaries & Vacancies Survey 1998", also reveals growing diversity among AGR members over remuneration strategies. Last year, more than half of the responding organisations offered pay differentials, substantially more than the previous year's figure of just over a third. In some areas of their business, recruiters offered salary advances and interest-free loans.

In a similar vein, basic salaries are growing fast, with the median salary offered to new graduates up 6.4 per cent to pounds 15,500, the third year running the increase has been ahead of average earnings growth.

With the shortage of suitable applicants in the scientific and technical areas continuing to give rise to concern, AGR members predict that they will need 18.5 per cent more recruits this year.

Roly Cockman, AGR chief executive, said: "The message is that, even with the projected financial implications for students, university education is potentially a very good investment, particularly if they acquire some work experience as well as a good degree."