Saturday, 3 March 2012

The benefits system fails graduates - what can we do?

After last week's posts, I'd like to weigh in on the benefits system.

Specifically, I feel that the "default" benefit - Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) completely fails graduates.

Like Emily, after graduating I spent six month unemployed and drawing benefits and so have some first hand experience of the system.

I think they key issue is that JSA is not designed with graduates in mind. It should be clear that anyone with a degree is highly skilled, and they are not workshy - even "easy" degrees require hard work and dedication to get honours in.

But the majority of jobs aimed at those on JSA are inappropriate. I was memory told by one potential employer that I had an excellent skillset, but he didn't want someone with a degree. He wanted someone who would be happy to be a receptionist for ten or more years and was absolutely - but frustratingly - right to turn me down.

I won't go on about it, because Emily did that so well last week, but graduates clearly need a different type of support compared to other people.

For a start, our qualifications tend to be less vocational. Those without a University degree on JSA tend to have qualifications or experience as, say, bricklayers or secretaries or musicians [sorry - in joke there] whereas graduates skills are less focussed.

It is very easy with people who JSA is aimed for to say "we've got these roles that match your skillset." I found advisers had trouble spotting anything that matches the skills for someone with a physics degree as most vacancies advertised required specific skills.

What graduates need, I think, is far better CV support, jobs targeted for those with broad skillsets and good opportunities for progression and more help and advice searching out graduate posts.

I think if the government were to invest in something like this I think it would, in the long run, pay dividends as more graduates get employed faster (making degrees more valuable) and start contributing to the economy.


  1. Or bring back the scheme you and Em got on for graduates (including the disabled ones!). That worked, you've both got jobs now.

    Also, I don't want CV support from someone who doesn't understand my skills and can't spell. The university careers service offers this tailored to us already.


    From the disabled graduate's point of view

  3. Is it right to provide so many university places when there clearly aren't enough graduate positions to be filled?

    It creates a buyers' market where companies can pick and choose which graduates they want, and those that aren't chosen are left with pretty awful options and poor support.

    I don't think it's right for the government to set itself such high targets for numbers of people getting degrees - it is unfair on the people who are then overqualified and in debt, but often left without significant vocational experience.