Government announced plans for a National Internship Scheme to help graduates facing toughest job market in a generation.
John Denham, the Skills Secretary, said that the scheme would incorporate up to three months’ paid work experience. He revealed that four well-known companies, including Microsoft and Barclays, have agreed to take part.
While the internships will not pay a full salary, pay levels will be set slightly above the combined total that a student would earn in that time from a grant and a loan. This means that the interns’ income will not suffer.
The minister justified the scheme saying, “They [new graduates] will be a very big group. We can’t just leave people to fend for themselves.” He added that he hopes the placements will lead to permanent positions. He said, “At the end they will be more employable, and some of them will get jobs.”
The director of the Oxford University Careers Service, Jonathan Black, praised the scheme, “In general, it is a jolly good idea. It is better to be doing an internship rather than bar work. It is important to tackle long-term, young unemployment. It can blight an entire generation like in the 1980s.”
Similarly, students are positive about the government initiative. Anna Hill, a modern languages finalist at New College said, “The national intern scheme is a step in the right direction, as long as the participating graduates don’t get their hopes up too much about the possibility of permanent employment as a result.”
However, the scheme has not yet been confirmed. A Barclays spokesperson said, “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We are in on-going talks with the government. It is too early to sign anything yet. However, we look forward to exploring how any government initiative can be integrated with our own programmes.”
Some students think that the scheme will only help graduates in traditional ‘milkround’ industries. A St Anne’s finalist said, “I think people at Oxford are really split into two in terms of careers. Either they are into Law/Banks/Accountancies or they are really not.
I think this government programme will help people who want to go into these. I’m not really interested into going into these industries. I want to take a post-graduate course, but that decision hasn’t been affected by the credit crunch.”
In the ‘milkround’ industries, many gradates are facing a tough time. Paul Kavanagh, an Economics and Management finalist, despite a predicted first class degree has been rejected from several investment banking posts. He said, “From what I’ve experienced…everyone is finding getting a job in investment banking really difficult this year and given the number of applications to jobs being offered, unless you have had prior investment banking experience, such as an internship or close family connections in the industry…it’s really hard to secure a job, whereas any other year it would have been relatively easy.”
As a result, Kavanagh is applying for a Masters degree, even though it’s going to be a “financial struggle”. He admits, “The only reason I’m applying for a masters is because of the job situation. As I feel it’s better to do something constructive…rather than just wasting a year.”
Jonathan Black emphasizes that the competitive environment in the investment banking does not mean that the majority of undergraduates will be negatively affected.
He said, “There are clearly fewer jobs in the traditional sector. However, it is important to keep in mind that only 4% of our graduates go to work in investment banking. Only 100 students or so will have to think about different industries. For example, some retail companies have pockets expanding and will recruit for management.”
The consensus is that the credit crunch forces graduates to look beyond the financial industry. Another E&M finalist said, “I think now the economic crisis has made a lot of people look into other sectors or even post-grad study which they probably wouldn’t have considered before.”
Anna Hill added, “Despite so many negative effects, the credit crisis is certainly encouraging people to think of creative solutions and I think we could see an increase in entrepreneurship amongst graduates who are so often stereotyped as blissfully unaware of life outside of comfortable grad schemes.”