You’ve recently graduated from university, and now the whole world of employment is open to you. There are so many different jobs in so many different fields, but there’s one problem: being at university means you haven’t had any time to work! If you’re worried that you don’t have enough of an employment history or key skills to attract employers, you aren’t alone. This is where a graduate scheme might just be the answer to your problem.
A graduate scheme is a training and mentoring programme designed for graduate students with minimal employment experience. Schemes involve practical training in different roles in the workplace and learning key skills in your field to take away to future jobs. Rotational graduate schemes also offer this, but in a variety of fields and workplaces as opposed to just one. Graduate schemes are there to support new graduates who may not have prior work experience.
If graduate schemes still seem complex and obscure to you, keep reading for all the things you’ll need to know about a graduate scheme.
Table of Contents
What is a graduate programme?
A graduate programme is a training programme for graduate students. It involves work-based practical training, to help graduate students gain experience working for a company.
The experience graduate students gain from a graduate scheme will vary depending on the company and the industry. However, you can expect to be trained and mentored, as well as actually completing work for the company.
Graduate schemes are designed to introduce graduates to the working world. In many cases, a graduate scheme is a graduate student’s first job. To learn more about graduate schemes or programmes, check out this page on the government website.
What is a rotational graduate programme?
Rotational graduate programmes are another form of graduate scheme. They offer the same structure and skills as a regular graduate scheme but target a different group of graduates.
In a rotational graduate scheme, instead of working and being trained under one company, you will work for several different companies, in different positions and in different fields.
Rotational graduate schemes are great if you don’t know which area of employment you want to work in. Similarly, by trying out different roles in a business, you can get a feel for your strengths and weaknesses, to help you pursue a career path.
Rotational graduate schemes are popular with graduates, because if you’ve just left university, you probably don’t know where you want to work and in what field. Don’t worry, many new graduates feel the same way. If this is you, rotational graduate schemes are designed with you in mind!
To learn more about rotational graduate schemes, check out this article by Capital One.
Graduate scheme vs graduate job
As explained above, a graduate scheme is a programme of practical training and mentoring for newly graduated students. Employers that participate in a graduate scheme understand that this will probably be your first job, and that you’re freshly out of university.
On the other hand, a graduate job is employment for people with honours degrees. Although you can sometimes enter jobs with qualifications that are worth less than an honours degree, people with an honours degree will probably be prioritised over you.
The main difference between a graduate scheme and a graduate job is that with a job, you probably won’t be given as much if any training or mentoring. Instead, you will be expected to already have the required skills. Both are for graduates, but a graduate job is not a “programme”.
That’s why graduate schemes are better if you have little to no work experience or previous employment, because those won’t be necessary.
To read more about graduate jobs in the UK, I’d recommend checking out this Think Student article.
How do you get on a graduate scheme?
Now that you know what a graduate scheme is, and if you’ve decided you’d like to complete one, your next question is probably: how do you even start a graduate scheme? This section will tell you what you need to know.
Graduate schemes are advertised on graduate recruitment websites and by recruitment agencies. As well as this, your university’s career service might inform you of new schemes.
Getting on a graduate scheme starts in a similar way to getting a job – you’ll have to submit an application form to the employer advertising the scheme. All the details you need to provide should be explained to you by the employer.
The government website has a great page on where to find graduate schemes, what fields they are likely to be in, and some basic requirements to apply.
After that, you’ll probably be interviewed, and you may be assessed in person or asked to complete an online assessment. It’s different for every scheme, but your employer should establish consistent contact with you about what is required for an application.
How hard is it to get on a graduate scheme?
Graduate schemes are very competitive. This is because they appeal to a broad range of graduates and can be incredibly helpful, so most new graduates want to get on a scheme.
In this article, Graduate Coach reported that in the graduate job market, there are approximately 80 applicants per job vacancy. However, some of the top 100 graduate employers receive over 650 applications per job vacancy on graduate schemes.
In short, it is certainly difficult to get on a graduate scheme. Don’t be disheartened though! You’ll never know whether you’ll be successful in applying for a scheme unless you try.
This article by the Independent states that your chances of being accepted onto a graduate scheme are around 1 in 100, or sometimes 1 in 1,000. 1 in 100 is actually not that bad, because it isn’t about getting lucky. If you have what employers are looking for, you might be that 1 person.
The key thing to remember is to sell yourself in your application as much as possible. Make it clear why you’re perfect for the scheme, and what you’d bring to the table.
Do you get paid on a graduate scheme?
The short answer is yes, you will be paid on a graduate scheme. Graduate schemes function as regular jobs – you get paid a full-time wage and you get workplace benefits.
While the money is a nice perk, graduate schemes aren’t about the wage, but more about the skills you’ll pick up from it and take away to future employment. Don’t apply to a graduate scheme purely for the money.
Alternatively, if you’d like to know more about graduate job salaries, I’d recommend this Think Student article.
Is a graduate scheme worth it?
Whether a graduate scheme is “worth it” or not very much depends on whether you feel you would benefit from the scheme, or whether you feel it would be a waste of time.
However, graduate schemes are very helpful for most graduates. They specifically target graduates who do not yet have much or any employment experience. This way, graduate schemes can support you as you enter the working world.
If you are nervous to start working or are worried about not having enough experience in employment, then you’d most likely benefit from participating in a graduate scheme.
If you’re still unsure, my advice is to just go for it! You never know what could happen, and even if you don’t enjoy it, you can always drop out of the scheme. If you do enjoy it, you’ll have some valuable takeaways for when you start working full-time.
For some other advice, I’d recommend reading this article from King’s College London.
It’s important to keep in mind, though, that graduate schemes are never mandatory. You won’t be unemployable if you don’t do a graduate scheme. The Guardian has a great article about alternatives to graduate schemes, linked here.
When are the graduate scheme deadlines?
Graduate schemes often begin accepting applications in September or October, around when the academic year starts. However, it’s important to check with the company you want to apply for when they are accepting applications.
The application deadlines for graduate schemes are usually between November and January. Again, the specific dates will change depending on the company you want to work for. If you want to learn more about the graduate deadlines check out this Think Student article.
Some companies may not set a deadline, but it’s better to apply before Christmas if possible, as that is when most companies will receive their applications by.
Your company may require interviews or assessments as part of the process of application. The deadlines for these are typically in January and February, but again, your company should make you aware of the specific details.
For more details on graduate schemes, click here for another Think Student article.