Want to get a job? Take a break from the books, graduates told

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The Independent Online

Students who put all their effort into gaining a first-class degree will be at a disadvantage when seeking a job this summer, according to research published today.

Unless they spend plenty of time on work experience placements during their studies, the class of 2011 stand little or no chance of landing a job with leading recruiters.

"This is one of the consequences of the recession," said Martin Birchall, managing director of High Fliers Research, which conducted the survey of 100 graduate recruiters. "They are besieged with good candidates – many of whom also have Firsts because of the growth in their numbers. It is hard for them to distinguish between candidates and therefore work experience counts."

Overall, the survey predicted an increase in the number of graduate jobs available this summer of 9.4 per cent. However, this still means that vacancies are 6 per cent below the 2007 level – and an expected 50,000 extra students are due to graduate this summer.

Mr Birchall added: "New graduates without work experience have little or no chance of landing a well-paid job with a leading employer, irrespective of the university they've attended or the academic results they've achieved."

The biggest rises in employment prospects are among high street banks (where vacancies are up by a quarter), investment banks and accounting and professional services firms.

Recruitment in the public sector is falling, with further cuts in vacancies expected this year.

Only Teach First, the scheme that trains graduates to teach in struggling inner-city schools, is expecting heightened interest.

The figures show that more than three-fifths of employers now provide industrial placements for undergraduates, usually lasting between six or 12 months and arranged with universities. A similar number offer placements during holidays which last a minimum of three weeks.

A quarter of employers offer shorter holiday experiences, the report said, with only six of the organisations questioned not offering any work experience.

"Three-fifths of employers stated that it was either 'not very likely' or 'not at all likely' that a graduate who'd had no previous work experience – either within their organisation or at another employer – would be successful during their selection process and be made a job offer," the report said. "Many recruiters commented that irrespective of the academic results that a graduate had achieved, it would be very hard for an applicant to demonstrate the skills and competencies that they were looking for if they'd not had any prior work experience."

Starting salaries for this summer's graduates are unlikely to show any improvement on last year.