What are graduate schemes?
Graduate schemes are programmes designed to help recent graduates filter into the working world by developing their skills in a professional environment. Many companies run graduate schemes and take a certain number of graduates every year under their wing and provide on-the-job training. There are a variety of schemes available, all dependent on the employer, and you'll find that they are more common in some industries than others. For example, if you're an engineering graduate, you'll find that there are naturally more graduate schemes available in your field in comparison to social care. These schemes not only differ in terms of employer, but also in length, style and entry requirements. Head's up, graduate schemes are really competitive and many employers will only take you on board if you've obtained a 2:1 or above.
Why choose one?
Graduate schemes are an excellent way into the professional world. They offer a cushioned route onto the career ladder which is great for graduates who most likely haven't experienced a full-time 'proper' job yet. Not only will you receive direct exposure to a working environment, but you'll receive on-the-job training, and the opportunity to use and develop the skills you are taught. Many graduate schemes have some great salaries attached (ready to help you dig your way out of that overdraft!), and they offer fantastic networking opportunities to help build your professional connections. You need to bear in mind that you might not necessarily be offered a permanent job at the end of your graduate scheme, but you'll most likely receive a formal qualification which will look amazing on your CV in addition to all that valuable experience.
What you can expect
So if you make it onto a graduate scheme you'll most likely have an introductory period where you get familiar with the company, departments, clients and position in the industry. You should then embark on a structured programme. This is likely to involve some specific placements within departments around the company where you will be offered training opportunities for both technical and soft skills, and they'll be unique to your company and sector.
Types of schemes and contracts
All graduate schemes will differ depending on the company and industry. They also vary hugely in length. On average graduate schemes last around two years, but they can be as little as a year, and if you're going into a law programme it could be six!
There are three main types of schemes. Rotational schemes often place graduates in broad managerial positions across the company; technical expert schemes focus on a specific career, role and skills set, such as engineering; and the project scheme, which aims to combine aspects of the previous two offering the best of both worlds!
How to find graduate schemes
Your university career services should be the first place you look for graduate schemes. No doubt they'll offer career or graduate fairs so you can go and have a chat with employers, or they'll have a section on their portal for graduate opportunities.
Job boards like CV-Library are another way to find schemes; just set your criteria for the scheme and then set up email alerts so you can be notified as soon as new schemes go live. There are plenty of graduate recruitment sites out there too, keeping you updated with schemes, training and entry-level roles. Just have a Google! Make sure you utilise social media too, many companies have accounts dedicated to recruitment and graduate schemes across Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
How to apply
You'll be able to find graduate schemes all through the year, but application season is usually between September and January. Remember, most schemes will only take recent graduates (if you've graduated less than two years ago), so it's okay if you didn't get round to applying in your last year of university!
In order to succeed in your graduate-scheme hunt, preparation is key. Conduct thorough research on the company and the type of scheme. Make sure your CV is up to date and tailored to the application! Don't be afraid to ask about the application process if you're unsure, but if you've found the scheme online, the site should talk you though each step until you meet the workplace.
There are more options!
You must remember that graduate schemes aren't for everyone and there are other opportunities out there. So if you're not accepted onto a graduate scheme or you can't find one that's suitable for you, don't panic! You might well be able to walk into your dream job without a structured training programme leading you there.
If you're thinking about looking into these schemes, click here to check out some of the graduate programmes on offer.
About the author: Laura Slingo is Digital Copywriter for the UK's leading job board CV-Library