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Low graduate employment in Devon

Image credit: University of Exeter
Image credit: University of Exeter

Devon County Council has recently stated plans to improve local businesses’ willingness and capability to take on career starters, including university leavers.  This statement follows concerns raised over the low numbers of young people being employed by businesses in Devon.

According to research carried out by the Council, in the last three years only 22 per cent of businesses in Devon have recruited a university leaver in their first job since graduating. A third of businesses stated a preference for experienced employees over recent graduates, claiming graduate-level skills to be unnecessary in employees.

Andrew Leadbetter, councillor for the electoral division of St Loyes and Topsham, has outlined a necessity of businesses better understanding how young people, including university leavers, can prove beneficial in creating a skilled, loyal workforce. Describing young people as “a pool of young and enthusiastic talent with fresh ideas”, Leadbetter has argued that such young people represent “a good investment for local businesses”.

Devon County Council has called upon businesses across Devon to take part in a series of focus groups improving understanding of skills-related issues and challenges facing these localbusinesses. The support needed for businesses to take on career starters has also been recognised by the County Council as an area for commitment.

Hannah Barton, President of the Students’ Guild, told Exeposé: “The graduate employment market has never been more competitive and universities and students have responded by preparing better than ever to find work after university”. Regarding university leavers, Barton stated that alongside graduate-level skills, university leavers offer “fresh ideas and broad experience gained through voluntary activities”, adding that local businesses “would be wise to seize and invest in local young talent”. She voiced a hope that “the council’s efforts to raise awareness of the potential of school and university leavers” would “encourage more organisations to look to these groups to join their workforce”.

When contacted by Exeposé, Councillor Andrew Leadbetter was able to give some advice on how current undergraduates can maximise their chances of employment after graduation.

Emphasising the need to make ones CV ‘stand out’ amongst others, Mr Leadbetter stressed the importance of being able to answer the “Why are you special?” question, noting extra activities students may partake in to demonstrate skills of commitment and dedication valued by employers.

Often particularly valuable, stated Leadbetter, is participation in The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme, or the University Officers’ Training Corps, and development of leadership skills.

He stressed the importance of “showing you have a passion” for a particular career, adding however that as “you are much more likely to get a job if you are already in work”, graduates may often have to accept positions below the level they would have wantedand work their way up in their chosen career.

Asked if he believed job prospects for university leavers were likely to improve in the near future, Leadbetter stated he has “every confidence they will”, due to the country’s growing economy, and government investment in infrastructure resulting in the creation of more jobs.

Leadbetter also emphasised the necessity for job-seekers to often make multiple applications and perhaps start lower that they would wish to. “Contacts” and “recommendations” were noted by Leadbetter as of great value, as well as having “transferable skills”. However, the overwhelming importance of “hard work” and “passion” were summarised in Leadbetter’s assertion that “you make your own luck”.

Hannah Butler, News Team

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