A guide to graduate training schemes 2016
Graduate schemes are like the Holy Grail of opportunity for most students, but what are they all about? Bear with us and we’ll bare all…There are of course a whole host of benefits that come with the experience of nabbing a place on a grad scheme, making them one of the most popular career routes for graduates to take.
But before we jump into the juicy details, it’s worth knowing that grad schemes come in all different shapes and sizes, from global blue-chips to local SMEs. When it comes to application time, you’ll want to be thinking a bit strategically and it can really pay off to think a little out-of-the-box.
This guide will give you a balanced overview of graduate schemes in the UK and what they have to offer – the good, bad and the slightly ugly.
You might even decide come the end of this guide that the graduate scheme road isn’t for you, after all, and that’s just fine! Remember there are heaps of alternative paths to take – we’ll be taking a look at some alternative great ways to kick-start your career, too.
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Ok! Before you embark on applications in the race towards deadlines, there are a few key things you should know about the process and what graduate schemes have to offer:
- Application period normally runs from September to January, to start the following September
- Grad schemes tend to be extremely competitive. However, for the really big employers who tend to take on a lot of graduates each year, you have a 1-in-10 chance of being accepted
- Salaries can vary widely depending on company and industry, but average around £23,000 for the first 2 years (see expected salaries)
- Your CV needs to be top-notch. Read our guide to an outstanding CV
- Remember that applications take time! Be selective, spend a good amount of time on a few applications to boost your chances. Read more on how to apply
- Don’t miss the deadlines, whatever you do! See a full list of deadlines for 2016 here
- You’ll boost your chances of success if you register with a specialist graduate recruiter. We’d recommend getting in touch with the Graduate Recruitment Bureau as they’re a free service and (as the name suggests!) specifically cater to graduates.
- Grad schemes are not for everyone, there are lots of alternatives which we consider here.
There’s no denying the huge benefits of securing a place on a decent graduate scheme in a field you want to forge a career in.
Here’s just some of the key benefits you can expect if successfully placed:
- The training you’ll receive will be of the highest standard (and you get paid whilst you’re in training!). Even if you decided not to stay within the company for your whole working life, it’s a great way to kickstart your career
- You’ll have a really valuable reference when applying for new positions in your industry
- You’re likely to recieve a starting salary in the higher scale of graduate salaries (for example, Aldi starts graduates off on a grad salary of £42,000!)
- There may be opportunities to travel, depending on how international the company is
- You’ll be rubbing shoulders with influential people and making great contacts
- You’ll develop important career skills in an environment that caters to grads straight out of uni, which is a lot less scary than going out on your own!
- Similarly, grad schemes a a smaller stepping stone that will allow you to build workplace confidence.
As this guide is here to give you a balanced overview of the opportunities involved in grad schemes, it’s only fair to mention some of the possible drawbacks involved in the whole process.
Here is a list of some of the things that employers don’t shout about which you might want to consider before applying:
- As we mentioned, applications can be really competitive!
- Applications can take up a lot of time, and they need to be top class if you want to be in with a shot
- Most grad schemes require at least a 2.1 degree. On track for a 2.2? You still have options! See below for more details
- The variety involved in some grad schemes can be minimal, and you’ll often have to work your way up from the bottom. This obviously won’t suit everyone – particularly those keen to earn maximum responsibility as soon as possible
- You might be required to travel a lot, or even asked to relocate to a new city
- Grad schemes are rarely a 9-5 job. You may be required to work late, at home and maybe even weekends (if you’re really unlucky).
A 2.2 or less is not the end of the world! There’s no denying that having a 2:1 or higher will make your life a bit easier, but having said that – a few of the biggest employers have started focussing less on degree classification and more on applications for their grad schemes.
Some have even started running their own individual assessments (so no CVs required) to pull out the bright sparks that are maybe less academic but still have a lot to offer.
Some companies that offer places to 2:2 candidates are:
- All of the ‘big four’ accountancy firms – EY, Deloitte, PwC and KPMG
- Jaguar Land Rover
- John Lewis
With a 2:2 to offer, it’s a good idea to show you have other great experience or skills to offer – do something different, like starting your own website or business, or get a part-time job to show you can juggle working and studying simultaneously – a feat in itself!
If you don’t get accepted on a graduate program then you should take comfort in the fact that 90% of other applicants are in the same boat!
Whilst grad schemes will be the perfect option for many students, it’s also important to remember that there are plenty of other opportunities open to you post-university.
In fact, we’ve got a whole guide dedicated to exploring the alternatives to graduate schemes here for you to check out!
Good luck with your applications, don’t forget to triple check the deadlines, and best of luck!
For more advice on nailing applications, take a look at the wealth of guides available on our careers page.
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