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Topic Title: Graduated, but there are no opportunities for employment.
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Created On: 07 September 2011 01:52 PM
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 07 September 2011 01:52 PM
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simonhowes2

Posts: 16
Joined: 24 May 2008

I'm really in need of help, and perhaps we could use this thread as a discussion as I think it's a widespread problem.

Being a recent graduate appears to be my problem, there are no easy routes in to engineering for graduates. It appears to have gone downhill since the recession.

I'm stuck in a situation where I have graduated with an honours degree, but employers require relevant 'skills and experience', even for the lowest of low positions. I'm applying for jobs, usually as a junior technician or similar, they pay low, minimum wage or £11-14k per annum. My feedback either from pre or post job interviews is I haven't got industry experience, even for what are classed as entry level jobs.

Graduate schemes seem to be a thing of the past, most employers now have unpaid internships, where there are no professional development schemes or training attached to the internships. A 6-12 month unpaid internship is impossible for many, myself included. I'm forced to remain classed as unemployed and claim Job Seeker's Allowance. I'm pretty sure unpaid internships have diluted pay for technical and junior engineering jobs too.

I can't get access to training courses, the costs are too high. Government have pulled funding to give grants or ceased benefits while training/in education.

Companies are reluctant to take me on as an apprentice because I'm 26 years old and a graduate.

Majority of junior positions are taken up by schemes such as the Future Jobs Fund, schemes for 16-21 year olds or similar, or is a postcode lottery as x job has funding for people who live in deprived wards. All of these I'm not eligible to apply for. These schemes hurt me the most, as every two weeks I go to the Job Centre and they pull up lots of jobs that I'm capable of doing, but I can't apply for as they come under a scheme for the very young, or people with no formal qualifications.

I have tried the self employment route for over a year, that really wasn't working out, it is usually something that requires industry experience. I've been classed as unemployed for 6 months.

So, where do graduates who want to be an engineer start?
 07 September 2011 02:03 PM
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StewartTaylor

Posts: 100
Joined: 18 January 2003

Simon,
You don't say what your degree is, or what kind of engineering you want to go into. These are fairly important aspects, as the situation varies quite a lot for diffferent types of engineering. Where you live, and whether you're willing to relocate will also be important.

There are still firms with graduate training programs (I work for one of them) but competition for places is certainly fierce.

It's an unfortunate fact, as I know from trying to sell 'my' graduates to project managers, that many people don't realise that someone with a good university education is going to be a fast learner. The usual result we find is that we need to fight to place our graduates on projects but when their time is up the project managers say they're too useful to let go.

-------------------------
Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.
 07 September 2011 05:46 PM
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amillar

Posts: 1918
Joined: 28 May 2002

For the first time for many years I've had the chance to recruit recent graduates earlier this year. It was an interesting experience.

We found that graduates who were:
1. straight out of University
2. had some industrial experience (maybe as a summer placement)
3. had a genuine interest in engineering, perhaps a hobby interest, and
4. not only knew their degree subjects but knew how to put them together to solve problems
had multiple job offers to choose from. The flipside, is that if any one of these was missing, then they struggled. Fortunately for us, we had the sense not to be too bothered about item 1. In fact, an excellent graduate we appointed had been doing a completely non-engineering role for the last two years, and had consequently found it hard to get any other employer to take him seriously.

Now, originally in our short list process we didn't worry about points 2 and 3 either. However, we found very quickly (and depressingly) in the interview process that graduates without some type of engineering contact outside university really struggled to answer surprisingly basic questions that involved the use of cross curricula knowledge from their degrees. Now, I'm not going to claim that this is neccesarily true for the graduate population as a whole, however having discussed this with university staff it does seem to be a common problem.

Something desperately needs to be done about this, as it's bad for employers, students, and universities. Areas that I've thought about which would help would be:
1. Sponsorship of student placements (who by? Dunno unfortunately.) Student placements are a pain for employers because they tie up our often already overworked work force in supervising them. But they are, to my mind, an essential part of an engineering degree. Something needs to be done to make it a no-brainer for us employers to take them on.
2. More involvement from companies in the 1st/2nd year of degree courses to make it clear what we're looking for. For example, following the painful interview week mentioned above, myself and a colleague are arranging with our local university to hold mock interviews with honest feedback to help guide students in what they need to get out of their course.
3. As much team project work as can be managed. Yes, I know university is about individual learning, but part of that is individually learning how to work in a team. The majority of engineering is teamwork, most recent graduate CVs (and, in our experience, interviews) give us nothing to judge whether candidates can do this.

I expect I'll think of more things as this discussion continues.

If we were a real profession such as medicine or law we would have structured training programmes. In fact, when I started in the late '70s there still just about were (for example, the huge number of ex-Marconi trainees there are of my age). There are a few programmes starting up to address exactly this problem, for example in my industry - railways - there are serious discussions going on between the different companies to set up an established programme. We do have to be aware that such programmes are at serious risk from financial nerves and competitor rivalries. Personally I feel if there was ever a role for the Engineering Institutes to act as a gaurdian angel to support inititives, this is it.


Back to earth:
So, where do graduates who want to be an engineer start?

To some extent where they always did - applying, applying, applying. In my opinion it's MUCH harder now that adverts are web based: in the electronics industry for example we used to have all the job adverts gathered together nicely in "Electronics Times" and "Electronics Weekly", now you have to scour the net constantly.
Also you haven't said whether you're prepared to move. The impression I'm getting from the market is that you have to be prepared to work anywhere to get that bit of experience. But employers would always rather have someone local (because they're more likely to stay). If you have relatives perhaps in a more employment friedly part of the country you may find you need to borrow their spare room for a while to get that first job.
Make certain your CV is perfect. I have seen some appaling ones this year. The candidates may have been fine, but when you're trying to get from a hundred CVs to one employee it doesn't take much to make you chuck CVs in the bin.
Try and get as much feedback as you can from any interviews (or even CV submissions). Some employers will be cagey, because they don't want to risk being sued for discrimination, better ones will give you as much as they can. If you're up against a candidate who was doing exactly the same job last wek as the company is looking for then you probably haven't got much of a chance. But if you were both inexperienced but you came across as less confident, or too arrogant, or didn't seem to understand some areas (because of poor communication) then you want to know that.

Basically, Best of British luck, it's tough out there, all you can do is make sure that you're not doing anything daft - plenty of candidates are!!!!

-------------------------
Andy Millar CEng MIET CMgr MCMI

http://www.linkedin.com/in/millarandy

"The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress." Joseph Joubert
 08 September 2011 11:14 AM
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simonhowes2

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Joined: 24 May 2008

The areas that I have been working is sound engineering, broadcast engineering, broadcast and motion picture production.

My interest is electronic and electrical engineering, with computing.

My degree is a BSc (Hons) Sound Engineering and Production and I also have a foundation in Computer Technology.


Just reading MoneySavingExpert and this was in the news.

Data published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) reveals that 27.7% of UK graduates who left university in 2006/07 were not in full time paid work three and a half years later.

...
Liam Burns, president of the National Union of Students (NUS), says: "Times are tough for young people at the moment, with rising unemployment no matter how well qualified they are, and through its lack of support the Government risks losing a generation to low skills and high unemployment.

"The postcode lottery of financial support for students risks many turning to expensive commercial debt while they study. If jobs aren't available on graduation, things like overdrafts and commercial loans become incredibly toxic.

"Whilst this difficult jobs market persists, the Government should be working to open more training and learning opportunities to young people, like they have done with apprenticeships, and urgently commit to put more money in students' pockets."

http://www.moneysavingexpert.c...ployed-graduates-rises[
 08 September 2011 12:47 PM
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tickner

Posts: 1229
Joined: 30 September 2001

Statistics are a dangerous thing! I would question how many of those 27.7% are not in full time work because they are in the process of having a family or bringing up a family.

However, I'd agree that the market for new graduates is slow.

My company has recently hired a couple of new graduates where before it has only ever recruited experienced professionals.

Although if you need to show experience on your CV, I'd suggest you consider those £10K jobs. Yes the money is appalling, but having some work on your CV will probably make it easier for you a better paying job later plus give you experience of dealing with people and the work environment.

I pretty much doubled my pay between my first post-graduation and second jobs! (shame the other jobs I've taken haven't been like that)

-------------------------
Mark Tickner CEng MIET
 08 September 2011 12:49 PM
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westonpa

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Originally posted by: simonhowes2
The areas that I have been working is sound engineering, broadcast engineering, broadcast and motion picture production.

My interest is electronic and electrical engineering, with computing.

My degree is a BSc (Hons) Sound Engineering and Production and I also have a foundation in Computer Technology.


You may have been better advised then to undertake a degree in electrical and electronic engineering. There are lots of students who take degrees which major in one area of engineering and then try to move into another area of engineering and thus an employer is likely going to ask why study that and then apply for this. You need to address this in the way you present your CV, in my opinion, or otherwise follow a masters more in line with your 'interest' and which will improve your situation. However I suspect that having not yet worked for a length of time you have some student debts and thus cannot follow the masters option. Write up your CV and on it emphasise the aspects of your degree and foundation which are related to the area you wish to work in and also find relevant practical, part time, hobby, etc., experience and add that onto it. For an engineer of 30 years experience working on some hobby or some part time electronics related hobby for a 3 months, for example, will not be significant but for you it will be. For example if you want to go into computing then you must mess about with computers at home and have some things you have done which are experience. In essence sell yourself.

You did an engineering degree and educated yourself to a high level and that is very positive and will work in your favour but sell/highlight the aspects of your education and experience which relate to the engineering work that you are applying for.

Thereafter put your CV with some 'engineering' agencies and also put it on reed.co.uk and make it searchable. Be prepared to move to another area if you can get the correct offer and then that way you will have more opportunities.

Good luck.

Regards.

Edited: 08 September 2011 at 12:55 PM by westonpa
 08 September 2011 01:39 PM
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amillar

Posts: 1918
Joined: 28 May 2002

Superb advice.

Originally posted by: simonhowes2
The areas that I have been working is sound engineering, broadcast engineering, broadcast and motion picture production.

My interest is electronic and electrical engineering, with computing.

My degree is a BSc (Hons) Sound Engineering and Production and I also have a foundation in Computer Technology.


As Paul says, there is a lesson here, the more general the degree the better.

20 years ago you would have been in a slightly easier position, as you could have tried joining one of the major pro-audio companies and then gained experience in electronics on the inside. (I was lucky enough to get a job with the then biggest name in pro-audio in the mid-80s, at which time not one of the electronics design team (afaik) had a degree in electronics!). Sadly the big design teams in the UK audio industry have all gone now, but this still might be your best way in. Trawl through Sound-On-Sound etc to find the UK based companies and try selling yourself. 99% of them will say no, but you only need the last 1%. And keep trying: the first time your letter may well go in the bin, the second or third may provoke some sort of response at least. Remember that most audio companies now are almost literally one man in a shed, the biggest design teams are probably 5-10 people, so you are trying to show that you will be a help and not a burden.

You could also try studio/PA installation companies, you won't get such good experience in electronics but you will still get good general engineering experience. Even more, since installations are now mostly IT based if you can start building up a reputation as a problem solver and creater of innovative solutions on the IT equipment you could well find yourself with very transferrable skills. OK, there's a lot of people after those roles (many of whom are excellent at talking themselves up) but equally there's a lot of work out there if you can find it.

It's all about using what selling points you do have: to a "normal" industrial electronics design department your CV may well seem weak, but to the right employer at the right time in the audio business they could well decide it's worth a shot. And once you've got the experience from that first position you've got far more to sell - but you know that already.

-------------------------
Andy Millar CEng MIET CMgr MCMI

http://www.linkedin.com/in/millarandy

"The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress." Joseph Joubert
 08 September 2011 04:24 PM
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saridgway

Posts: 148
Joined: 07 May 2002

Or (provided you don't mind long, unsociable hours and lots of travel) you could try PA/lighting/staging hire companies, some of which seem to have been expanding* recently despite the current economic climate. Sound design and/or audio programming for computer games might be another area to look at. Apologies if these are avenues you've already explored.

*Albeit expanding in terms of investment in equipment, not necessarily more staff.

-------------------------
Steve Ridgway MIET

Edited: 08 September 2011 at 04:43 PM by saridgway
 08 September 2011 09:04 PM
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sashi

Posts: 154
Joined: 18 January 2003

Hi Simon,

Have you considered working in another country, gaining some relevant experience, and then returning to UK (if you so wished) with a stronger set of skills and experience to offer prospective employers. After I gained my DPhil in UK, I moved to Queensland. If you're not keen on moving hemispheres, Europe too is at your doorstep.

If you're interested, you can PM me, and I'll point you to some links for more info on skilled visas down under.

cheers
sashi

-------------------------
Dr S Sivathasan, DPhil CEng
PRI IPRA (Queensland)
 08 September 2011 09:05 PM
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simonhowes2

Posts: 16
Joined: 24 May 2008

I'm based in Dudley in the West Midlands. Apologies for not answering that earlier.

I have been in contact with quite a few PA companies and have been offered unpaid work experience at a large hire company in Redditch. The only problem is they are a little far away by public transport. I'm to visit them next week to sort something, at the moment I'm busy installing a PA in a church. The hire company has advising and sourcing equipment for me. Something to keep me busy at the moment and to add to my CV.

Trying to add some more to my CV. Currently awaiting registration with Institute of Broadcast Sound and Association of Motion Picture Sound. That should add to the potential to get broadcast work. I was asked by the IET to rejoin (I was a student member in the past) and start to get an IEng, but that wont be coming any time soon unless I can get employment.

I have been chasing the installation industry for a while. My only problem is, many require me to have electrical installation qualifications. I have contacted some of the colleges local to me, they either do a two year level 2 or 3 NVQ, or fast track courses. The only problem is, they cost between £3k to £4k, which I cannot afford right now. I could do with some advice either from IET members or the IET on this. I have some skills and experience in the industry. I worked part time in AV retail for over a year, selling hi-fi and custom installation electronics. I have gained a CEA CompTIA DHTI+ and some Sun (I guess now Oracle) and RedHat qualifications in UNIX in my own time, thinking that as systems are going IP based they may be good ones to do.

Master Degree I have been looking in to. I have been head hunted and offered three corporate funded MSc projects, two with Birmingham City University and one with Queen Mary. They required very skilled computer programmers or SoC designers, which I am not, so I couldn't accept them.

Computer games, again been there. I have met with the executives of Codemasters, Rare and Blitz. I can't think of an industry that has such fierce competition, they post a job, and tens of thousands send in a CV.

I'm networking, but not with engineers. Are there any monthly networking meetings that anyone knows of in Birmingham or the Black Country?
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