Challenging Graduate Career Opportunities

28 01 2009

Graduates are facing a very tough jobs market. The ‘Class of 2009’ has already had to contend with gloomy predictions of a serious shortfall in the number of graduate jobs available when they finish their degrees this year. But it’s not all gloom and doom if you’re creative and entrepreneurial.

Some of the more entrepreneurial graduates in sectors where competition for jobs is fiercest are already taking defensive action to create their own start-ups. The NCGE’s Flying Start Programme for the Creative Industries, held in Bournemouth earlier this month, received over 100 applications for 33 places from as far north as Yorkshire.

Graduates chasing vacancies at the UK’s largest recruiters will find fewer opportunities on average. High Fliers Research, whose 14th January report – The Graduate Market in 2009 – surveyed 100 firms, found that recruitment targets have been cut by 17% for this year since the latest graduate recruitment round began in September 2008.

Last year graduate recruitment fell by 6.7% rather than rising by the 11.8% predicted by the recruiters themselves. Banking and finance were particularly badly hit. Skilled staff taken on by leading firms will drop by 7,000 to around 33,000 this year.

Mike Hill, Chief Executive of the Higher Education Careers Services Unit (HESCU) and Graduate Prospects, said recently: “Graduates should not panic. There are lots of jobs out there, but they will be harder to get because more people will be going for them.

“There are more jobs for graduates now than there were 10 years ago,” he added. It is also important, Mike recommends, for HR managers to take a long-term view when faced with current financial pressures. “When we emerge from this recession we will need all the talent we can muster.”

Some areas are bucking the trend, according to the High Fliers research report. There are now 51% more entry-level positions for graduates in the public sector and 17% more roles in the Armed Forces. Accountancy remains a strong prospect, preparing to offer 20.9% of all graduate jobs in 2009.

A BBC Briefing for concerned graduates listed seven top tips from HESCU and Graduate Prospects include:

  • Take advice
  • Broaden your horizons to related professions
  • Consider paid or unpaid work experience
  • Do not be too proud to use contacts to get a first break
  • Do not be too proud to take a job you think may be beneath you
  • Be imaginative


  • Consider setting up your own business.

Seasoned entrepreneur Sir David Tang has criticised global pessimism in the face of recession. In a recent opinion piece he recommended we shed negativity and think about finding solutions. He called on governments to force banks to lend to small businesses.

The Government is taking action on a number of fronts. In addition to its recent support package for small businesses, a new campaign – Science: So What? (So Everything) – launched today at 10 Downing Street underlines the continuing need for science, technology, engineering and maths subject areas among many graduate employers. Technology and innovation are seen as key drivers for economic recovery.

Meanwhile, Professor Dame Wendy Hall is spearheading another campaign by the Royal Academy of Engineering to attract more engineers from diverse backgrounds. She said: “The financial turmoil and the recession actually give us a huge opportunity to entice people who have studied engineering and science away from the City and back into innovating for the future, which is where they are badly needed.”

For those graduates among the 400,000 due to graduate this year who remain unemployed for more than six months, it has been reported that DIUS Minister John Denham is proposing paid three-month internships with leading firms and is inviting more of all sizes, and from the public and voluntary sectors, to take part. But details are still being worked out.

In the Government’s New Opportunities White Paper, it was also announced last week that a more streamlined package of support for those unemployed for six months or more pursuing self-employment is to be introduced.


New Networks Launched To Boost University Entrepreneurship

21 11 2008

Baroness Shriti Vadera, Minister for Economic Competitiveness and Small Business, with (from left) Malcolm McVicar, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Central Lancashire; David Frost, Director-General of the British Chambers of Commerce and Chair of the NCGE; and NCGE Chief Executive Ian Robertson.

Baroness Shriti Vadera, Minister for Economic Competitiveness and Small Business, with (from left) Malcolm McVicar, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Central Lancashire; David Frost, Director-General of the British Chambers of Commerce and Chair of the NCGE; and NCGE Chief Executive Ian Robertson.

Around 100,000 students and graduates will get the chance to develop world-class skills as entrepreneurs and business leaders with the launch of the first University Enterprise Networks (UENs).

Shriti Vadera, Minister for Economic Competitiveness and Small Business launched the Networks at a reception at the Microsoft Offices in London yesterday, Thursday 20 November, as part of Global Entrepreneurship week.

These Networks are the first of their kind and will focus on the areas of science, technology, engineering, maths (STEM), Innovation and the Nuclear sector. The networks will be managed by the National Council for Graduate Entrepreneurship (NCGE).

The UENs will aim to establish a culture of enterprise in universities by providing training, advice and encouragement to students and graduates who want to develop their business ideas or wish to become innovative employees. Each network will be further supported by sponsorship from privately owned companies and Regional Development Agencies (RDAs). This will give students first hand experience of enterprising workplaces.

The UENs follow on from a commitment made by the Government in its Enterprise Strategy to further promote and support the development of enterprise.

Shriti Vadera, Minister for Economic Competitiveness and Small Business, said:

“Making graduates more business savvy and entrepreneurial is essential to Britain’s long term competitiveness.

“I would like to see more University Enterprise Networks between businesses and investors to encourage this”.

David Lammy, Minister of State for Higher Education said:

“We need stronger links between business and higher education so that we can make full use of the expertise and talents within our universities and colleges.

“University Enterprise Networks are a new kind of partnership that will nurture the enterprise skills and entrepreneurial spirit of tomorrow’s business leaders, while also helping universities engage more closely with the needs of employers today.”

Ian Robertson, Chief Executive of the National Council for Graduate Entrepreneurship, said:

“The NCGE welcomes the commitment from companies, RDAs and universities in working with us to build the first University Enterprise Networks announced today. These networks will act as a catalyst for closer engagement between business, universities and the public sector, to respond to industry needs and contribute to UK competitiveness.”

“The NCGE’s role is to set up and manage the UENs in order that they create the right conditions for better, more responsive collaboration. The UENs will also ensure more students and graduates acquire the skills for enterprise and entrepreneurship they need to achieve business growth, whether as employees or in starting and running their own businesses.”

Pam Alexander, Chief Executive of SEEDA, speaking on behalf of the Regional Development Agencies involved in the UENs said:

“Regional Development Agencies are delighted to be involved in developing these exciting new University Enterprise Networks, which complement our important work to link universities and businesses and create the skills needed to emerge from the economic downturn stronger and better able to compete globally.”

Stephen Uden, Microsoft UK’s Head of Skills and Economic Affairs, added:

“We are looking at a long period of economic uncertainty. That doesn’t mean that business doesn’t go on, or that there won’t be opportunities for those who can take advantage of them. What it does mean though is that those leaving university need to have the right skills to succeed”.

“Nearly half (48%) of the undergraduates we surveyed would consider starting their own business. That’s great, as small businesses are the engine room of the economy, and also where many of the many of the most innovative ideas come from. This announcement and the STEM network represent good progress in starting to change that view.”

The three University Enterprise Networks (UENs) announced yesterday were the STEM, Innovation, and Nuclear networks. The STEM UEN will be led by the South East England Development Agency (SEEDA) in collaboration with the East of England Development Agency (EEDA) and sponsored by Microsoft and other major companies.

The first universities to express their commitment in principle are the universities of Cambridge, Cranfield, Hertfordshire, Oxford, Reading, and Southampton. SEEDA and EEDA will concentrate on technology based, high growth enterprises.

The Innovation UEN will be led by Advantage West Midlands (AWM) and supported by HP-backed Micro Enterprise Acceleration Institute, BT, and CISCO, with Coventry University. The UEN will focus on helping students understand how Web-based  Technologies can be exploited in the creation of new business ideas, and in helping small businesses collaborate with large co-operates in the development and launch of new products in the context of the “market”.

The Nuclear UEN will be led by the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA), and supported by Westinghouse UK. The first university to sign up to the network is the University of Central Lancashire. The Nuclear UEN will play a major role in helping graduates acquire the innovative skills that companies across the breadth of the nuclear sector seek.

A further fourth University Enterprise Network will be launched early in the New Year. The Manufacturing UEN. Led by the North West Development Agency (NWDA) will focus on “Advanced Manufacturing”.

The NCGE’s role will be to set up and manage the UENs in order that they create the right conditions for better, more responsive collaboration. The UENs will also ensure more students and graduates acquire the skills for enterprise and entrepreneurship they need to achieve business growth, whether as employees or in starting and running their own businesses.

For further information, see

Women and the Enterprise Strategy

27 03 2008

The announcement of  a £12.5 million fund to be spent on redressing the gender imbalance among entrepreneurs as part of the Government’s Enterprise Strategy has not been universally welcomed.  The effectiveness of this provision has been questioned by the British Association of Women Entrepreneurs (BAWE) and several business commentators (see Please, sir, may we have some more? and When a helping hand doesn’t help). 

 Interestingly, two events in the past fortnight (organised well in advance of the announcement of the Enterprise Strategy) have given female entrepreners the opportunity to showcase their ideas and inspire other women to follow in their footsteps:  the British Female Inventor and Innovator Network (BFIIN) announced its 2008 Award Winners at the BFIIN  annual Conference, and the British Library organised the Mothers of Invention event which featured five entrepreneurial women telling their stories.

Another cohort of would-be entrepreneurs will have an opportunity to receive support when the second Flying Start Programme for Women commences with a residential workshop in Sheffield in July.  The format will be similar to the first Programme run in January 2008.

Rural entrepreneurship

4 03 2008

In the debate about the withdrawal of funding for ELQs (equivalent or lower qualifications), it is interesting to note that landscape training may be exempt from the £100m cuts the Government is making to higher education this year. This is because land-based studies are considered strategically important or vulnerable subjects.  The strategic importance was emphasised at today’s Young Entrepreneurs Conference at the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester, when young rural entrepreneurs were warned of the need to avoid diversification pitfalls – and to balance new enterprises with the core farming business.

Other forthcoming conferences which will focus on rural enterprise are:

  • The WiRE (Women in Rural Enterprise) Conference is now in its eighth year and brings together women from all stages and types of business.  The theme of the 2008 WiRE Conference is WiFi and Wellies. Part Welly, Part WiFi, embracing everything that is rural; from traditional crafts, local foods and farm diversifications to everything that is high tech, women in rural enterprises embody the huge diversity of rural businesses. They remain true to their rural roots but gallop ahead in the new technologies field to build bigger and better businesses.
  • The Centre for Research into Regional Development (CRRED) will be hosting two conferences to run concurrently on 22nd and 23rd May 2008: the 6th Rural Entrepreneurship Conference and Rural Regional Development: Sustainability, Culture and Business.

Gender and entrepreneurship: more research

27 02 2008

Further to the research on gender and entrepreneurship outlined at last week’s PROWESS Conference, the International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Small Business (IJESB) has published a special issue on Gender and Entrepreneurship [5(3/4) 2008].  A range of topics are addressed from comparative and national perspectives; these include the effectiveness of women entrepreneurs, the influence of roles and identities on female entrepreneurial agency, and the perception of the importance of training for female entrepreneurs.

New research from Northumbria University on why women set up their own businessess in the North East reveals a range of factors which affect the decision of women to change direction in mid-life.  The factors include a combination of organizational sexism, personal and domestic circumstances, and the need to gain independance and control.

Women and enterprise

21 02 2008

A round-up of a number of recent news stories featuring women and enterprise in the week of the PROWESS Conference:

NCGE recently published the analysis of applicants to the 2008 Women’s Flying Start programme.  The data on why women want to start their own businesses,  gathered from the applicants to the NCGE’s most successful programme, reveals the motivations and backgrounds of would-be entrepreneurs.

The British Female Inventor and Innovator of the Year Award (BFIIN) is an annual award that aims to recognise and promote the success stories of women in the UK that have come through the challenges of turning an idea into reality. Previous Award winners discuss their motivations and inspiration in a Guardian article “Meet the mothers of invention“.  The 2008 Awards ceremony will be held in Wales during March 10-11. 

The Prowess Awards 2008 are now open for nominations. These unique awards honour individuals from across the business community who are changing the face of UK enterprise by championing female entrepreneurship.  New categories this year include the Social Entrepreneur category supported by the Office of the Third Sector and the Ethnic Minority Business Woman Award supported by the Women’s Enterprise Centre of Expertise (WECOE) and Advantage West Midlands. Nominations are invited from across the UK and the closing date is Friday 11 April.

The Social Enterprise Coalition has named a leading female social entrepreneur, Claire Dove as Coalition Chair. Ms Dove is CEO of Blackburn House Group, a training-led organisation which runs a number of social enterprises which provide career opportunities for women in non-traditional sectors such as construction and IT.

Research on gender and entrepreneurship

18 02 2008

New research papers focusing on gender and entrepreneurship in over twelve countries will be presented this week at the Fifth Annual International Prowess Conference (to be held in Peterborough from 20 – 21 February).  The final selection of papers has been announced, which includes research from the United States, France, Bangladesh, Finland, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the UK.  The presentations will focus on the key themes of this year’s conference: the future of women’s enterprise, science, engineering and technology, migrant, ethnical and environmental enterprise, business growth and community cohesion. The research strand is sponsored by De Montfort University.

Two items in today’s news also focus on gender and entrepreneurship:  a report that men dominate Swedish entrepreneurship and a blog post asking does testosterone make men more likely to start businesses?.  A study by Företagarna, an organization representing Swedish entrepreneurs, shows that Sweden has fewer women entrepreneurs than almost every other country in Europe.  The study reports that only 3.9% percent of Swedish women run their own companies, well below the EU average of 5.7%, despite the fact that Sweden usually ranks close to the top globally in matters of gender equity.  Meanwhile, researchers from the University of Western Ontario found that the students with entrepreneurial experience had higher testosterone levels than those who had never been involved in starting new businesses; view abstracts here and here.