The Graduate Problem

I see posts on LinkedIn across all kinds of forums asking for advice on how to land a role. People offer the same advice:

  • apply for internships and volunteer your time
  • network with others in the profession
  • get your resume and LinkedIn checked out by a professional

This is what I call a band-aid fix. Why isn’t it part of all university degrees to actually do this stuff?

Universities are places where you learn to think, critically analyse stuff, recite the work of others and train your body to live on Red-Bull. Whilst the shift is happening across the education sector to move towards practical application, we have lost sight of why we go to university.

Our job seeking graduate problems started way back high-school when we are learning about what it means to establish a career. Preaching higher education is misleading, we need to be talking about the attainment of quality skills for the role you want to get. University is cloaked in prestige, your first job will not be.

University should be about building a portfolio of tools and experiences that you can sell to prospective employers. Instead, university students are walking into a flooded job market struggling to land their first role.

There will always be the portion of grads who have what I call the gift.

They are driven, resilient and were smart enough to make the university system work for them. They pursued every opportunity and made their own.

They chose part-time jobs that allowed them to pursue volunteering or gave them the ability to practice at least of some their talents. These grad won’t have too many drama’s – they will be employed pretty quickly. These are the grads that ignore the BS recruitment advertisements that say Graduate Position – must have 3 years of experience. They apply anyway because they are champions, when others will get discouraged.


But there is a robust portion of grads who don’t have this gift. It’s not their fault, we are all different with varying levels of confidence. University needs to stop selling the prestige and start delivering on the promises of education. Help students help themselves. It’s a two-way street, you can’t do the hard work for the grads, but there is little point in a degree if you can’t get a job. Grads paid between 20-50K on average for that degree, the least you could do is provide better transitional services.

I’m not saying don’t go to uni, I went to uni and I wouldn’t change a thing, I enjoyed my uni experience. But you need to be prepared to make it work for you.

Youth and young adult employment impacts us all. Without getting all down in economics we know the lower the unemployment rate the better off we are as a country. This only scratches the surface of what is a real social and economic problem driven by an education system struggling to remain relevant.


Accredited training programs, why do we use them?

Have you ever wondered why organisations want to have training programs? If you answered ‘no’ you are in the same camp as me because I feel it’s all pretty obvious right? You want to increase the skills of your employees, get your slice of government incentives, build your workforce, build your brand… the list goes on.

Recently an article was published in the Asia Pacific Journal of Human Resources  with the fancy title of “Modelling the reasons for the use of vocational training in Australian enterprises”. The modelling was based on a 2005 survey of employers by the National Centre for Vocation Education Research, Australia (the article didn’t cite how many employers were surveyed). The reason for the research was due to a lack of explicit research in the area, which I guess perhaps is true….

Okay, I’ll bite, maybe this article will teach me something new….

*15 mins later after reading*

The article didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already believe to be true, or that I hadn’t read on other VET education blogs. It really confirms the complexity of the reasons why organisations choose to deliver accredited training programs. A couple of the key reminders for me included:

Reminder 1: Connection

The article talked about how employees who are completing accredited training are seen as completing something outside of the organisation and not directly linked to the strategy of the business.  I’ve actually been really impressed recently when talking to RTO’s about their real desire to partner and offer something that isn’t a walk in, walk out service – it’s like insourcing your L&D department now.

Reminder 2: Remember the Why

The article highlighted the trend that the more skilled your workforce the more likely you are to shy away from needing an Accredited Training Program with the exception of industries and roles that are driven by mandatory certifications and training. I agree and disagree at the same time. I think it’s dependant on your Why, why do you want to have an Accredited Training Program? Accredited Training is awesome for building a structure, keeping your eye on what matters and capitalising on funding that you can reinvest into your people. I think that reasoning with that trend without looking at other factors kind of gives Vocational Training a bad name. It’s all in the execution and being clear on why you are having the program in the first place.

In other news the article did cite a fun fact from research carried out in the mid 1990’s:

…enterprises reported that training needs were increasingly fragmented to the individual level and that they were progressively abandoning the traditional approach to training programs that saw large groups of employees receive the same training regardless of individual need…

This observation was from the MID 1990’s – 10 years ago people – and we are still having this same discussion about the need for L&D structures to catch up and join us here in the present day.

If you want to read full article check out the reference below.

Smith, A. and Oczkowski, E. (2014), Modelling the reasons for the use of vocational training in Australian enterprises. Asia Pacific Journal of Human Resources. doi: 10.1111/1744-7941.120