SMEs hire School Leavers over University Graduates

No Graduates

Twice as many small firms would choose to recruit school leavers over university graduates as they are a more affordable source of staff, according to the Forum of Private Business (FPB).

No Graduates

Research from the FPB revealed that when small firms are recruiting, 20% would specifically aim for candidates straight from school, while just 11% would seek to recruit recent graduates or postgraduates. FPB research manager Thomas Parry said.

“Small businesses can find the costs of employing graduates too high. In addition, many small firms are hairdressers or manufacturers who need candidates with enthusiasm and willingness to learn rather than academic skills, and they are often willing to train them on the job.”

The FPB research also found that 77% of small businesses feel they do not necessarily require employees with university skills.

“Many school or college leavers have vocational qualifications in the relevant industry, which are perhaps more appropriate than a university degree for many businesses,” said Parry.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) claimed that many firms will recruit younger workers so that they can pay them less. CIPD policy adviser Frances Wilson said;

“A lot of organisations are just looking for someone they can tread on and pay as little as possible, so they choose school leavers,”

“However, it depends on the type of small business they’ve got. If the firm’s a PR consultancy, they are likely to demand high levels of communication skills or a second language and expect some kind of world experience, so they are likely to be employing graduates.

“But if the firm’s assembling toys, or if they want someone just to answer the telephones, they might choose to employ a bright school leaver with fewer qualifications who could be given training,” said Wilson.

Universities UK, the representative body of higher education institutions, said that more SMEs need to realise the benefits of employing graduates.

“We believe the skills a university graduate can bring to small firms makes them a good investment,” said a Universities UK spokesman.

“An honours graduate should have the qualities needed for employment in situations requiring the exercise of personal responsibility, and decision–making in complex and unpredictable circumstances,” he added. “These attributes are particularly relevant to small enterprises, where flexibility and resourcefulness are often important.”

FPB research manager Thomas Parry added:

“Schemes such as Business Bridge – funded by the North West Regional Development Agency – provide links between universities and employers, and we’d like to see more of these. Greater consultation between universities and small businesses would be useful, to find out what employers value and what attributes they look for.”

For further information on recruiting and employment see our articles on recruitment and graduate recruitment.

For more information on Business Bridge programme, visit the Business Bridge website

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