Opportunities for Graduates in SMEs: Why It’s Failing

opportunities for graduates in smesIt’s a myth that graduates do not want to work in a small business.

In a recent report Graduates into Smaller Businesses Research Project 2013 by GTI Media, a tiny c 15% of the permanent jobs were with the blue chip companies. They are the ones active on University campuses.

Not every graduate is suited to joining the corporate world. Many don’t have the grades. So where are the opportunities for graduates in SMEs? For the Universities aren’t finding them despite the job opportunities existing.

60% found it a challenge to recruit graduates from Universities

When smaller businesses were questioned:

  • 60% found it a challenge to recruit graduates from Universities
  • 33% had never been contacted by a University
  • 30% had very rarely been contacted by a University

So that makes you think – “do undergraduates not want to work in smaller businesses?”

87% would be willing or very willing to start their career with a smaller employer

In the report, when undergraduates were questioned:

  • 87% would be willing or very willing to start their career with a smaller employer, however
  • 33% said they heard nothing about smaller companies on campus
  • 68% said SMEs had limited or very limited profile as potential recruiters

The report doesn’t identify the routes taken by smaller businesses to find graduates. However it is fairly apparent that if the routes were clearer, more graduates would consider working in smaller businesses.

In the last year, there were many opportunities for graduates in SMEs:

  • 46% of smaller businesses had recruited at least one graduate to a permanent position, up 20% since 2010
  • 40% had offered at least one graduate work experience opportunity, up 15% since 2010

One key difference between the needs of a corporate and smaller businesses is timescale. Those corporate companies with presence on campus are often conditionally hiring graduates a year in advance of them finishing at University. They have the scale to plan this far ahead. In doing so they take the brightest undergraduates.

75% needed a graduate to address an immediate or specific requirement.

On the other hand, smaller businesses don’t have this same flexibility and timescales are much shorter. 75% needed a graduate to address an immediate or specific requirement.

A third of smaller businesses saw the graduate as a potential future manager; 40% had a need for fresh ideas and thinking.

The view was graduates brought many fresh qualities to the company

  • teamwork and communication skills
  • flexibility to handle multiple roles
  • a can do attitude
  • common sense

All these finding back up my belief that smaller businesses need more support in sourcing good graduates. It is why I run my Mentored Graduate Programme.

I am working closely with a number of Yorkshire Universities. The purpose is to better prepare graduates in their final year for work in a smaller business.

As an associate of BiY, we are developing a service, ready in late 2013, to make it easier for Universities, graduates and smaller businesses to find each other. This recent report merely underlines the need for such a service.

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