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How can your children improve their graduate job prospects?

Job challengesIt’s no secret that fresh graduates struggle to get hired, let alone find themselves entering the workplace in a job they really want. How can young people improve their graduate job prospects before they even start their degree?

Survey after survey shows employers complaining that despite the huge number of university leavers seeking work, many don’t quite measure up. Companies just aren’t finding enough savvy graduates who can make a difference from day one.

The good news is that you can improve your offspring’s graduate job prospects before they’ve even set foot in a university. Let’s start with courses. Of course, trends in the job market are complex but among the most employable degrees in the UK currently are economics (every type of enterprise needs a professional economist, and they’re among the most highly paid employees, earning around 30 per cent more than other graduates), computer science (where the sky’s the limit for job opportunities in different sectors) and engineering (take your pick from aerospace to civil and from construction to telecommunications – all in high demand).

Don’t rule out a vocational degree. Research from the Higher Education Funding Council for England has found that students on courses with strong vocational links were more likely to end up in well-paid, skilled jobs within six months of finishing university. Medicine, dentistry and nursing topped the list, with almost all graduates going on to get jobs in related professions. Landscape design, nutrition and education are other examples of reliable routes to employment.

Where you study can affect your employability, so always get detailed information on where the last few years’ worth of cohorts are now. You may also find there are advantages to certain types of degree. Sandwich courses have long been regarded favourably by employers because the set period of time working in a related industry or studying abroad gives the student unrivalled confidence and often enables them to hit the ground running. Industrial placements are particularly common on vocational-based degree subjects, such as business or marketing, while study-abroad placements feature regularly as part of a language or humanities course.

Meanwhile, for the crème-de-la-crème of employable degrees, feast your eyes on degree apprenticeship ads, where you actually land your employer at the same time as your degree – and you even get paid for to study.

Even without the likes of sandwich degrees and degree apprenticeships, work experience matters. Even a short internship can make a huge difference – studies show that a third of students employed by the top 100 graduate recruiters have already worked for the organisation.

Remember that companies want to see achievements, not just qualifications – research reveals that employers are crying out for better communication and problem-solving skills from their graduate recruits, as well as evidence of teamwork and applying knowledge and skills to the real world. University students who get involved in university life (think clubs and societies, especially in leadership roles) and who volunteer (because giving your time for free shows you’re prepared to make a difference) will stand out from the crowd.

And because it’s not what you know but who you know, students who attend careers fairs and company presentations, as well as create professional social media profiles, stand to benefit. And for goodness sake, use the careers service – these guys know exactly when to time your applications and how to fine-tune your CV and interview technique.

None of these suggestions come with guarantees. And none are a walk in the park. Most graduates end up applying for huge numbers of jobs and attending numerous interviews. But if you get the foundations right, it can be a fast-track ticket.

Children’s book of the month
Hey GrandudeHey Grandude! (Puffin, £12.99)

By Paul McCartney

Age: 3+

Sir Paul McCartney is the proud grandfather of eight grandchildren, one of whom gave him the idea for his first picture book. As he explains: ‘…one day one of them said to me “Hey Grandude!” I said “What?” and I thought, I kind of like that, so from then on I was kind of known as Grandude.’

The ex-Beatle was so inspired by the name that he decided to bring Grandude to life on the page – and hey presto, Hey Grandude! is the result.

Parents and grandparents alike will enjoy reading this charming story with their children and grandchildren. Beautifully illustrated by Kathryn Durst, the story takes readers on a rollercoaster ride to the seaside, the desert, the mountains and back home again.

Grandude, an intrepid explorer with a sense of fun, is looking after his grandchildren on a grey drizzly day, when ‘everybody was grumpy and too bored to be bothered’. Determined to cheer the children up, he produces a stack of postcards and a magic compass from his pockets and whisks the children off on a series of exciting expeditions. They ride on a school of flying fish, dodge a herd of wild buffalo and escape a rumbling avalanche.

Not surprisingly, given that the book is written by one of the most iconic musicians of our age, Grandude is the coolest grandparent you can imagine, complete with a dashing white ponytail, a lime green rucksack, a telescope and a thirst for adventure.

The book is stunning but ardent Beatle fans may choose to download the audiobook as well. Sir Paul narrates it himself and has composed some exclusive original music for the soundtrack. Everybody will be happy.

Going up, going down

Going up

Cambridge success. A record number of students starting at the University of Cambridge this term attended state schools. Early admissions figures show that more than two-thirds of new undergraduates are from the state sector and a quarter are from disadvantaged or under-represented backgrounds.

Sport for everyone. Water polo, figure skating and windsurfing are among the ten new sports that pupils can now take as part of GCSE or A level PE.

Best of the best. The University of Oxford has been ranked first in an international league table for the fourth year in a row. The annual Times Higher Education world rankings put Cambridge in third place and Imperial College London in tenth. The 2020 rankings feature 1,400 universities across 92 countries.

Going down

Expensive uniforms. An online survey by The Good Schools Guide found that two-thirds of parents believe school uniforms are overpriced while research by The Times showed that uniforms at some independent schools can cost more than £1,000 per pupil. Thank goodness for second-hand sales.

Ban on watches. All watches should be banned from public exams to discourage cheating, says an inquiry into the extent of malpractice in exam halls. Smart watches connected to the internet are already prohibited but the Independent Commission on Examination Malpractice says it’s tricky to distinguish between hi-tech and traditional watches.

Vape warning. A growing number of schools are warning parents about the dangers of vaping. Public Health England has said that 16 per cent of 11 to 18-year-olds were users or had tried vaping in the last year, compared to 8 per cent in 2014.

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