Sixth-formers at a Ucas event for prospective design students


When I applied for university in 2009 I was sure it was the right thing to be doing – mainly because the additional qualification would surely convince potential employers that basic things like typing my own name in Microsoft Word were not beyond my comprehension, but also because with any luck by the time I graduated all this “recession” nonsense would be a thing of the past.

But alas, along with many of the assumptions I started my degree with, this has been proved wrong.

I sit here now searching for these elusive graduate training schemes.

Only a few of the largest companies are offering them in the first place and even once you have found the ideal one there are obstacles. The first is this worrying new trend of asking, and making decisions based on, how many Ucas points you have. Throughout my education I was assured that with each new level you achieved the previous ones became irrelevant.

Yet despite these promises I now find myself, six years after completing said A-levels, being forced to type my pathetically small number into an online form so that a multitude of highprofile companies such as Sainsbury’s can stop me in my tracks and reject my application without even asking why my score was so low.

I can see the logic behind it – if you have several thousand applicants for 20 jobs you need to get the list down somehow – but surely they are missing out on talent because of it. What relevance does passing A-levels have to the real world anyway?

The second obstacle is the sheer quantity of the competition. I recently attended an assessment centre for a graduate scheme I applied for in November, and in the introductory presentation we were congratulated on being among the 120 applicants to have been invited for assessment out of a total 3,500. This list has to be trimmed still further to just 16. The thing that constantly surprises me, however, is that at every recruitment event I attend I face competition not only from new graduates but from people who graduated last summer.

My university has included a module as part of the course this year which aims to help improve our employability.

The programme is geared towards applying for jobs in March when to get a good one you need to start looking in October, but the lecturer summed up what we need quite well. She asked how many of us had done a relevant placement, how many had other paid jobs, and how many were on course to get a 2:1 or above. She said these were the three things we needed. Only five people in the room had all three.

The writer is studying marketing at the University of Northampton