One way of ensuring a smooth transition to employment on finishing your degree is to apply for a place on a graduate training scheme, offered by a wide range of companies in the UK. There are numerous benefits to enrolling, not least that they provide a solid platform on which to build your future career.

Your options

Whether you are interested in engineering, finance or customer service, there is likely to be a company with a scheme to suit. Although the schemes are intense and require a lot of hard work, the experience you will gain and the contacts you will make, could be invaluable.

Graduate training programmes can last between six months and four years and invariably lead to a permanent contract with the company you've been working for, assuming you impress! On some training schemes there will also be the opportunity to gain a qualification, so you can continue your education while you are working in a full-time job.

Starting salaries

Companies offer a competitive salary for graduates on their training schemes. Barclays, for example, offer a starting salary of £24,000 with a £3,500 joining bonus. Summer interns can get paid up to £350 a week, so you can raise some cash while also raising your profile within the company. Requirements vary depending on the company, but most ask for at least a 2:1 (often in any discipline, but sometimes this is specified), an interest in the company and its work and an ambitious and eager attitude.

How to apply

The application process is extremely competitive, as these training schemes provide a fast-track route to more responsible and senior roles within the company. Most companies will ask for an online application followed by an online test. They also ask you to attend an assessment centre and some companies hold a telephone interview too.

The number of placements varies; popular companies such as Marks & Spencer only offer around 120 a year. With this in mind, it is worth trying to get some work experience beforehand; many companies offer summer placements for undergraduate students. Around eight weeks in duration, these placements not only give you a chance to see whether you enjoy working for that company, but also put you ahead of the other graduate applicants who you'll be in competition with.


Sally Ives, 23, is a department manager at John Lewis, Nottingham

My initial interest in the John Lewis graduate scheme was a result of a vocational scheme I took part in during my penultimate summer at university. This six-week placement gave me experience across a range of departments.

Following my work experience, I gained a place on the September 2005 graduate intake.

For all graduates, the first six weeks is spent on the shop floor. I was then promoted to section manager of travel goods, where I was able to build on the skills I had developed and take on more responsibility.

Eighteen months on, I'm a department manager of menswear, sports and travel goods in the Nottingham store, responsible for a team of 42. My job involves liaising with members of my team and my section managers to ensure that we are on track to fulfil our department's business plan.

I love working in-branch with customers as well as with my co-workers. I am about to start a secondment where I will be working with divisional personnel and 2007 graduates in particular, where I hope to learn a new set of skills as well as pass on my knowledge.


* John Lewis

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