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(Why) are we letting our grads down?

As many of you will be aware, this time last year we launched the UK’s first industry-led social media apprenticeship to do two things: create much-needed quality career opportunities for bright young people and fill a huge skills gap in our sector.

Since then we – with the amazing support of the North West business sector – have created nearly 40 jobs right across the region in top corporates such as JW Lees, Pets at Home, BetFred and Bruntwood and myriad quality agencies including BJL, Smoking Gun, Weber Shandwick and we also have three ourselves.

And it’s been a brilliant, largely positive – if challenging – experience.

However, all is not rosy in the garden of BYT job creation.

Why? Simply this: a few years ago the whole world (well the UK education bit of it) was focussed on university education, which gradually became a bit of problem as we were churning out too many grads for too few jobs… so people started shifting the focus (and the funding) to apprenticeships… and, as often happens in governmental circles, it’s now shifted so far that things are now, in my opinion, completely unbalanced.

Let me explain: every time we advertise for a new cohort of apprentices (usually to fill between 10 – 15 jobs), we get around 600 applications from young people wanting the chance to attend our ‘bootcamp’ and land one of the jobs. Sounds great? Well not when you realise that usually around HALF of these are from graduates! And that grads are not eligible for apprenticeship funding so we can’t take them onto our programme.

So, in other words, not only are grads (who’ve already studied for, and obtained, a degree and plenty of debt) so desperate for any foot in the door to a job that they’re willing to apply and fight for an apprenticeship, alongside school leavers, but we can’t give them one! To me, this is simply wrong. Surely, they should have equal access (at least) but apparently because they’ve already had subsidised training, the Government won’t allow them more.

So, we thought, let’s set up an intake for grads! This way they get their job and we know quite a few businesses that will want them. Problem sorted. Hmm not quite.

There is no (literally NO) funding for graduates any more – no little hidden pots of money which would allow us to run a programme to create these much needed jobs for grads and much needed grads with the right skills for businesses (let’s not even get into the discussion about why grads are exiting uni without the right skills).

No will to give the grads the same opportunities that young people directly out of school are getting every day of the week! And, while we’d love to do this ourselves, we just can’t find a way to make it work – we’d do it even if we could be assured it’d break even but we’re not a charity and we can’t afford for it to cost us money.

We’ve also looked to see if any of the larger corporates out there might want to sponsor the programme, but this was always going to be a long shot with the world the way it is.

So there you have it – lots of bright, willing grads, perfect for The Juice Academy and for employers, once they’ve had our training, sitting on the shelf, with their huge uni debt, and there’s not a thing we can do for them.

Frankly I think this is desperately sad and I hope you agree and will help me make a noise to try to get local, regional or national Government attention. Or any alternative ideas/plans we may not have considered?


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