There can rarely have been a worse time to be graduating from university ‑ with unemployment soaring over the past four years, having a degree is no guarantee that a job in your chosen profession will follow.
But help is on hand. Charity TrainE-TraidE has achieved success with its mentoring scheme for students and graduates.
Under the stewardship of managing director Shraga Zaltzman, TrainE-TraidE offers training, career coaching and networking for people of all ages. Its student services are proving among the most successful.
The organisation placed 85 Jewish students and recent graduates on internships at 54 companies last year, a figure representing a rise in line with the growth of unemployment. Three years ago only eight students received similar assistance.
Companies working with the charity cover the full spectrum of businesses in the Jewish community and more widely, and include charities, religious groups, law firms, and accountants. Medical research students have been found placements in hospitals and clinics.
Mr Zaltzman said that the difficulties experienced by students are not simply due to the economic situation. Part of the problem, he suggested, is a genuine reluctance to work hard to secure a top job.
“The companies are saying they are not willing to employ some of the interns,” he said. “Many graduates cannot network and cannot relate to people in the work place.”
TrainE-TraidE is working hard to change students’ attitudes, lower their levels of expectation and entitlement and train them for the realities of the workplace.
Mr Zaltzman said: “They have to realise that just because they have a good degree they cannot simply walk into their ideal job like they would have done 20 years ago. The way to get to the top is definitely through hard work.”
Research carried out by the charity reveals surprising details about students’ expectations. Asked how easy they thought it would be to find permanent, paid employment within six months of graduating, more than two-thirds said they were “very likely” or “likely” to secure work in their chosen profession. Only around eight per cent accepted it might be “very difficult”.
Employers felt rather differently – more than half said interns who had completed placements at their companies had been only “average” or “below average” at contributing in a professional manner.
TrainE-TraidE said many students and graduates cannot complete a CV, fail to turn up for planned internships, or are rude and unhelpful to employers offering them a chance on the first rung of the employment ladder. Others have asked for flexitime in the first week of their placement or said they would prefer to work remotely from home rather than in the office.
So what is the solution? TrainE-TraidE uses a special X Factor-style boot camp, with the team teaching apparently simple skills such as how to talk to people in a professional manner and explaining what is required of someone at entry level in the job market.
The sessions include interview practices and role-playing exercises to recreate office-based situations ‑ and they work. Of the 85 students who were found placements, 25 returned for a second chance with their temporary employers.
Companies which have experienced successful internships regularly offer TrainE-TraidE additional places for future years.
Debbie Sheldon, TrainE-TraidE head of operations, said the entire perception of the job market must change: “We have to stop saying ‘in the current climate’. This is the new reality. More people are still going to university despite the fees ‑ everyone still thinks uni is the way to go. Attitudes are so deep-set.”
Graduate snobbery means many are left disappointed when they discover the real difficulties of securing work.
Mr Zaltzman said: “There’s a perception in the Jewish community that people know each other and everyone is connected and can get a great job. But most are just regular people looking for normal work.
“There are enough employers in the community. We are saying to the companies: ‘If you are not taking on interns, why not?’”