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Scotland: Encouraging Graduates to work in SMEs

06 May 2013

Scottish Graduates are being encouraged to look for work in small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) as part of an initiative by the Universities Scotland, the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, the Federation of Small Businesses Scotland.

The initiative is one of 22 recommendations in a report, Taking Pride in the Job, published by Universities Scotland. The report responds to the Scottish Government's call for an "all Scotland" approach to youth unemployment and follows a year-long programme of engagement with businesses, students and others.

The report found that SMEs, companies that employ fewer than 250 staff, account for more than half (54%) of private sector employment in Scotland but graduate recruitment remains relatively low with them.

Universities Scotland's Convener, Professor Pete Downes, said:

"Small businesses are a key part of Scotland's economy and can offer graduates so much in the way of diverse opportunities and hands-on experience, particularly as employment in this sector means working closely with established and successful entrepreneurs. Employing graduates is important for these companies to succeed by being more innovative and adaptable. Small businesses are the lifeblood of Scotland's economy and to continue to thrive they will need to refresh their talent with highly motivated and highly skilled university graduates."

Other recommendations in the report include:

  • Exploration of how universities encourage greater levels of graduate entrepreneurship. In continuing to develop an institutional culture of enterprise, universities should consider how to increase cross-overs between their enterprising research and knowledge exchange activity and teaching, ensuring that students have the opportunity to learn from and be inspired by this activity.
  • A role for student associations in encouraging student take-up of university careers services from the first year of study. Such services are available and advertised to students from enrolment onwards, but a survey in Scotland found fewer than ten% of students using careers services were first-years.
  • Work placements offered to students should be paid or credit bearing as part of a degree programme. Not all placements can be made available on a paid basis, particularly if we are to encourage further growth in the number of placements available. However, unpaid work placements create inequalities in terms of which students can access them. This can be reconciled if work placements offered by universities become credit-bearing as part of a degree or paid.

Minister for Youth Employment, Angela Constance said:

"Graduates often suffer from the same difficulties as school leavers and young people finishing college courses. As they often lack hands on work experience, they are not always the first choice for employers, particularly in times of economic difficulty. I am very pleased that Universities Scotland has answered the Scottish Government's call for a fresh focus on youth employment and their work with the business world will not only help open up more employment opportunities for graduates, but also allow our SMEs better access to an incredibly enthusiastic pool of young talent."

To read the full report, click here.


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