Alongside increases in tuition fees, there was a lot of moaning and grumbling about the lack of jobs available for graduates. Having seen my parents and their peers work incredibly hard to pave the way for our generation, I was growing frustrated at the sense of entitlement that graduates felt – especially given the rise in the number of graduates since 1997. I felt I had to share my story but also put forth some home truths about graduate employment.
Published on The Vibe.
In my short five and a bit year career, which has taken me from banking and wealth management through to local government and some freelance writing work, I’ve met a qualified orthopaedic surgeon who earns money by cleaning up people’s litter and regurgitated beer at the O2 arena; I’ve met a qualified International Corporate Law graduate who doubles up as a security guard and a qualified pharmacist who unloads lorry-loads of clothes for brands such as Abercrombie, GAP and H&M.
I even know someone who, throughout university, worked 3 days a week and transferred to full-time during the holidays, studying mainly in the evenings and weekends. Despite not holding a requisite 2.1, was on a graduate programme at a big FTSE-100 company mainly because of his previous experience and, after being made redundant aged 24, found a job again within 3 months in a completely unrelated field earning a salary higher than his previous job, signing up to do a Masters degree while working full-time and commuting almost 2 hours a day to his new place of work.
Throughout my life, I’ve seen what panic is. My father, for example, came back to Britain in 1992 after a failed move abroad, found his house was repossessed and a wife and kid to look after, with another one popping up 2 years later. I recall the Fridays where he’d work from 7am to 7pm, before heading out for his 9pm to 9am shift, getting his sleep and starting the next shift from 7pm to 7am from Saturday. He worked like this for 15 years until he and I were able to buy a property together and I requested him to stop working his fingers to the bone for the sake of his family as we no longer needed to rent anymore.
The orthopaedic surgeon, my brother-in-law, arrived here a year ago with a view to completing a Masters in Surgical Sciences and lives with his wife and four year old son in a room behind a dry cleaners as his course alone is costing him upwards of £27,000 – and he’s been saving money in Bangladesh.
Graduates, like Reni Eddo-Lodge, in the UK can feel aggrieved for apparently having been sold a lie – get a degree, get a job, you’ll be fine. But it astounds me to know that so many graduates seem to be oblivious to the world around them despite their apparent higher level of intellect and ability. Why did they believe that this would be the case in the first place? If there are more and more graduates coming out every year, did nobody step out and think that the value of them as graduates alone will never be enough?livepage.apple.com
With reports coming out of the number of students that didn’t get a place at university, it concerns me that university is still seen as an indicator of our future success. Of course graduates are important but surely some attention needs to be given to those who will be entrepreneurial as our economy stagnates? What about those who will build on the slow progress being made by the manufacturing sectors here?
Graduates abroad, like China and India, are part of a journey of tremendous economic and social progress. Graduates in the UK find themselves in an environment where a lot needs to be done but no one seems to have the initiative to lead from the front as they expected an easy ride. But more than anything, with successive governments having very little idea of the social and economic direction of the country, new graduates have the opportunity to shape so much.
The protests are just the beginning. Instead of panicking and looking bitterly at the lack of leadership around them, graduates can come together and be a force of tremendous change, instigating a new wave of economic growth and social stability. Much of what you learn at university is quickly forgotten unless you go directly into a career that exercises that degree in the first place (such as medicine or law) but, even then, you need to pass numerous professional qualifications to reach industry standards.
Viewing the graduate population as the ‘lost generation’ is scaremongering and a lazy view of how society and the world works. This is not the first time the graduate population will suffer as the economy goes through a critical juncture and it certainly will not be the last.