Graduate Schemes

What is a graduate scheme?

Graduate schemes are graduate level jobs that also offer a structured period of training and development, hands on experience and often early responsibility. They can come in all shapes and sizes, and typically last between 1 and 3 years. Some schemes expose graduates to different aspects of the organisation on a number of placements/rotations, which can help inform your future career choice. Others expect applicants to be more career focused at the application stage, offering training and placements specific to that career choice. Some schemes require specific degrees, but many accept graduates from any degree discipline.

(NB: Graduate schemes may come with many different names, including graduate leadership programme, management trainee programme, graduate "fast track" programme).


Graduate job or graduate scheme?

It's the defined time frame and structure that normally distinguishes a graduate scheme. A 'graduate job', is the term for other roles that require people with a degree. Only a small proportion of the UK job market is made up of graduate schemes and they are rare in sector such as the media, cultural and heritage sector and health & social care. However, there are exceptions to this; see 'Suggested Links' and do your research thoroughly.  Some organisations offer both graduate schemes and graduate jobs. For example the NHS offers a graduate management training scheme, but entry level roles for healthcare professionals such as physiotherapists are graduate jobs. Remember that graduate schemes are not the only route into professional or managerial level positions; your potential can be realised in other ways - even if this means beginning your career in a non-graduate level role.


Which types of employers offer graduate schemes?

A very wide range! The majority of graduate schemes are offered by large organisations. Opportunities exist in all sectors - private, public and not for profit sectors, ranging from private multinational companies to opportunities in the NHS, civil service, local government and charities such as Cancer Research.  According to 'The Graduate Market in 2016', the annual review of graduate vacancies at Britain’s top employers, the largest number of vacancies (in descending order) were  Accounting&professional services, Public sector, Engineering&industrial, Banking&finance, Armed forces, Consulting, and Retail. The review predicted that the largest individual recruiters of new graduates in 2016 are likely to be Teach First, PwC and Deloitte.

However, some opportunities exist with smaller organisations including advertising agencies and management consultancies.


Where are the graduate schemes based and where are they advertised?

According to 'The Graduate Market in 2016', 83% of top graduate employers had vacancies in London, however many have vacancies elsewhere, for example 46% had vacancies in Yorkshire.

Note that some employers value mobility. Many schemes allow you to state a preference for a specific location in your application but you may need to be prepared to move between offices and sites, so find out what is expected.

See 'Suggested Links' for some suggested job search sites but this is not exhaustive. It is also worth following companies on social media (LinkedIn and Twitter) and looking directly at the websites of companies that interest you.


Why do employers offer graduate schemes?

Employers use the schemes as a means of recruiting the (sometimes quite large numbers) of new employees that they need each year. They look for graduates because the process of studying for and achieving a degree requires discipline, determination and intellectual rigour.


What training and development is available?

That varies between schemes, but is often accredited by a relevant professional association, offering a funded professional qualification (common in, but not exclusive to engineering, accountancy, human resources, law, and surveying). Trainees are usually assigned a mentor, who is usually a senior member of staff. You could also be assigned a 'work buddy' to help you settle in, often someone who has completed a graduate training scheme themselves.

When do I need to apply and when do they start?

Schemes typically recruit a year in advance of the start date, which is usually the summer or autumn after you finish your course, although some organisations offer more than one annual intake. It is common for closing dates to be in December or January of your final year of study, but some are earlier. The golden rule of graduate schemes: apply early, even if the employer has an 'open' or 'ongoing' recruitment process.

If you want to take time out, some organisations may be flexible about a deferred start date, but you should not assume that it is possible. Check the recruitment information, and if it is unclear then contact the recruiter for advice. You will also need to consider how any travelling will affect your ability to attend interviews and assessment centres.

What do graduate recruiters look for?

This will vary depending on the role, so look at the detail but a majority look for:

  • Evidence of being active outside of your degree - work experience, part time employment, volunteering, extra-curricular activities

  • Many organisations ask for a 2.1, but there a wide variety of schemes are open to graduates with a 2.2 degree. Some ask for a certain UCAS tariff, but some big recruiters have recently dropped this requirement, for example PwC. If you are prepared to expand your search, and think outside of the most familiar graduate recruiters, there are some excellent opportunities to be found - see Useful File

  • Leadership potential (many schemes aim to recruit future leaders)

  • Strong key skills such as project and/or people management, negotiating skills and communication

  • Commercial awareness

  • Self-awareness and a willingness to develop

  • A genuine enthusiasm for the scheme and organisation

Although entry is competitive, it is also about employers recognising potential, and a willingness in graduates to continue to develop, so you are not expected to be the finished article. 

What is the recruitment process?

This varies, but typically:

  • Some form of online written application. This can include one or more of: CV/supporting statement/written responses to set questions (often with a word limit)

  • A sifting stage that may include an initial telephone interview and/or pyschometric tests

  • An interview and/or assessment centre

  • Newer recruitment methods and styles such as video CVs/interviews and strength based recruitment (focusing on what you enjoy and your innate aptitudes) also exist

 For recruitment success, make sure you’re clued-up on the applications and interview methods used by employers. Make the most of the employer events, workshops and one to one support offered by the Careers and Employability service. You may also be interested in our Career Impact programme.  Also note that although many employers may recruit some graduate trainees that have already worked for their organisations, either through paid internships, industrial placements or vacation work, many recruit unknown applicants.

 

What will I get paid?

Typical starting salaries on graduate schemes range from £20,000 to £40,000. 'The Graduate Market in 2016' reported a median average starting salary of £30,000 amongst top employers, with the highest salaries in investment banks, law firms, banking&finance companies and oil&energy programmes. There may be a range of additional benefits on offer as part of a package.

 

Need more help?

Talk it through with an adviser - how to book

Last modified: 
Tuesday, May 16, 2017 - 11:26