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The impact of graduate placements on businesses in the South West of England

A longitudinal study to run along side the Graduates for Business Project

 

Graduates for Business (G4B) was launched in November 2006 with the aim of increasing the number and effectiveness of graduates employed in South West England. Existing 'working with business' programmes in the South West had demonstrated the benefits graduates could bring to businesses and the region by increasing productivity and the rate of innovation. These programmes have been found to improve the employability and effectiveness of the students and graduates participating.

The changing South West economy requires an increasing number of graduates, and a core objective of the G4B programme was to stem the flow of graduates away from the region and enable those who remain to realize their potential contribution to its industries and communities. The study conducted by the Warwick Institute for Employment Research contributed to analysis of the effectiveness of the programme by mapping and evaluating the efficacy of current employer/higher education (HE) collaborative activities to inform HE and employing organizational stakeholders of the most effective ways to meet these objectives, in order to develop and promote appropriate graduate employment opportunities in the South West. In addition to established ‘work experience’ objectives, students and graduates having, or likely to have, difficulty in the job market were to be provided with training and mentoring to help them identify strengths and weaknesses and encourage them to undertake an appropriate 'working with business' programme.

The following quantitative and qualitative research methods were used to address the questions raised:

  • a survey of employers participating in G4B plus others engaged in student placements (identified via SW HEIs in consultation with Careers Service and other key informants with industry liaison roles), was conducted ;
  • in as many cases as was feasible, longitudinal case studies of employer/placement partnerships were conducted, with a return to those interviewed in the early stage to monitor the impact of the placements from the point of view of both graduate placement candidate and employing organisation and explore issues arising from the surveys. Initially, it was planned to include only graduate placements but in the fieldwork it became apparent that it would also be of value to cover student placements, to which employers were more receptive and this was agreed with the sponsors;
  • comparison of the new data generated with SW-specific and national data in existing data sets were investigated to provide an indication of the extent to which the population of employers with placements differed from that of the population of graduate recruiters, and how far the early labour market experience of graduates in placements had been similar to, or different from, that of graduates generally.

The objective was to assess the impact of placements on both the graduates and students who had undertaken them and the organisations that offered them. Did the graduates and students add value to organisations? Were shorter and longer-term placements equally effective? What led to success and failure for both parties? In conclusion, the researchers considered the implications for future design and organisation of placements to improve the extent to which such collaboration in order to meet their objectives more effectively.

The IER research team worked closely with the G4B team throughout.