Newly employed graduates with no work experience cost British business up to Pounds 2 billion a year, according to research which has been passed to Sir Ron Dearing in a bid to make work placements a prescribed part of all undergraduate courses, writes Phil Baty.
Shell Step, a work-placement scheme funded by Shell, the Department of Trade and Industry and the Training and Enterprise Councils, arranges work placements for 1,500 undergraduates. Step director Liz Rhodes is bidding to make undergraduate work placements universal, and wants the Government to model its scheme on hers.
"Dearing is clearly interested in more work experience for students," said Ms Rhodes, also part of an Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services steering group on the future of careers services. "Universities have to be more accountable to employers, and employability is the key issue. We're ready to get pro-active as soon as we find out exactly what Dearing recommends in his report into higher education." It is understood that the Government is eager to expand work placement programmes in higher education.
Lee Harvey, director of the centre for research into quality at the University of Central England, confirmed this week that he was exploring work-experience programmes for the Department for Education and Employment. His last big project for the Dearing committee, "Graduate's Work", was hailed as the "most comprehensive survey of employers attitudes ever" and made only a single firm recommendation, that undergraduates should all be given work experience.
He is developing this work for the DFEE and the Association of Graduate Recruiters, and will report in October.