Updated: Friday, 24th October 2014 @ 7:04pm

Any work experience can be good work experience when it comes to graduate jobs – even if it is stacking shelves

Any work experience can be good work experience when it comes to graduate jobs – even if it is stacking shelves

By Lauren Maughan

With graduate unemployment at a high, it is becoming more apparent than ever that heading to university and studying for a degree is not enough to become employable.

The latest advice from education experts is that we need to be adding more to our credentials than just academia to make us stand out from our competitors.

So even those summers you spent stacking shelves in your local supermarket could prove to be a useful skill to your future employer. It could show your dedication and persistence; which your future employer could be looking for.

A key finding from the High Fliers Market Research, a review of graduate vacancies and starting salaries at Britain’s top leading employers, was that half of the employers interviewed warned that graduates with no experience would struggle to find work.

The survey covered 100 employers who are collectively offering 11,296 paid work experience and internship places this year.

Charlie Ball, deputy research director at the Higher Education Careers Service Unit (HECSU), when commenting on the results, said: “The kind of experience students gain in term-time and vacation is often very valuable and there’s no indication that employers aren’t interested in experiences of this kind.”

“This is a timely reminder to students that they need to have something more than academia on their CVs to stand a good chance of a job on graduation.”

The survey did not paint a great picture for present graduate job prospects, but Mr Ball insists this is not a ‘graduate job meltdown’. He explained prospects seem to be better than last year although popular sectors, especially media, are looking to be harder to get into than they were in the past.

This just shows how important the extra work experience is to graduates in order stand out whilst filling in the next application form or selling themselves in the next interview.  

Mr Ball, however, thought that the overall result of the survey was a positive one.

“The bottom line is that the employers surveyed are expecting, overall, to be offering more jobs than last year, a very welcome finding during very difficult and uncertain times.”

Emma Foote, 19, student at The University of Manchester, said: “As an unemployed student, looking at the market at the minute, it seems to be quite difficult to get a job at the moment. When I leave university I hope to gain as much experience as I can, which will hopefully lead to greater opportunities.”

Chris Rea, business services manager at Graduate Prospects, reinforced that in these times prospective employees need to shine.

“Employers are demanding more from new recruits and employability skills are at the top of their list,” he said.

“With a few exceptions the class type or degree is not their main consideration, as they look for evidence of aptitude in teamwork, communication, flexibility, initiative and problem solving.

“All types of work experience – from a structured internship to casual work – will help you demonstrate these types of skills to a potential employer.”

One such company is taking the idea of work experience skills to the next level and not looking for your average job seeker.  

The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants has produced a new training scheme which they hope will provide young people with a mixture of practical and theoretical training to enable them to become professional accountants.

David Pearson, a partner at Edwards, Pearson and White accountants, explained that the aim of the scheme is to get into the pool of graduate talent that has been unable to find a career in their chosen field.

Mr Pearson said: “I would hope that some trainees make partners, or at worst simply qualify and become jolly good accountants.”

“My preference would strongly be for someone who had, for instance, been stacking shelves at Tesco since graduating, rather than sitting at home waiting for something to happen; purely because it demonstrates a strong work ethic.”

Ben Simpson, 23, a sales executive, explained how important the work experience he gained was.

During my time at university I attempted to gain as much experience as I could in any field. Although it was not all mapped to the career I am now doing I gained a lot of transferable skills during these experiences which my employer found a positive,” he said. 

The graduate survey and educational experts’ opinions show that in this current employment market it could take more than a degree to become employable.

So while graduates are filling in countless application forms and cover letters it could be useful to emphasis the long hours you did in the summer. You never know, it’s what a prospective employer could just be looking for.  

For more information on the accountant scheme visit www.accaglobal.com

For full results of the survey visit http://www.highfliers.co.uk/download/GMReport12.pdf