Work experience gives new graduates the edge

University students must make obtaining work experience a priority during their education, new research suggests.

According to a survey of 100 leading employers conducted by market research company High Fliers Research, recruiters expect that graduates who have held internships, placements or summer roles with their organisation will fill more than a third of this year’s entry-level positions.

At City investment banks, proven history becomes even more important, with three-quarters of graduate vacancies expected to go to those already known to the hiring company. The law firms surveyed estimated that half the training contracts offered would go to previous employees.

“This latest research confirms that taking part in work placements or internships whilst at university is now just as important as getting a 2.1 or a first-class degree. Graduate recruiters warn that in a highly competitive job market, new graduates who’ve not had any work experience at all during their studies are increasingly unlikely to be offered a good graduate job after university,” said Martin Birchall, managing director of High Fliers Research.

Encouragingly, 80% of the firms that took part in the research stated that they would be offering paid work experience programmes for students and recent graduates over the coming year, news that will be welcomed by the many groups campaigning against the use of unpaid interns across the UK.

The report also noted a likely rise in the overall number of graduate vacancies over the coming year after an 0.8% drop in 2012, with openings predicted to rise by 2.7% in 2013.

“It’s welcome news that Britain’s best-known and most sought-after employers are offering more jobs for graduates this year, particularly after a drop in vacancies for university-leavers in 2012,” said Birchall.

However, the number of jobs on offer to graduates remains well below pre-recession levels and this year’s vacancies are expected to be 11% lower than in 2007.