Network Rail raises concerns over British graduates

Network Rail today warned Britain risked a generation of graduates no more employable than school leavers unless universities and business worked better together to deliver a programme relevant and practical for the commercial world.

As the company launches its graduate scheme for 2011, it warns that while applications are up, there is a worrying trend of candidates with little or no awareness of how business operates, and in some cases, engineering graduates with a lack of understanding of ’the basics’.

Iain Coucher, Network Rail chief executive, said: ‘A successful railway is vital to Britain’s economic growth and prosperity. To deliver this we must continue to hire top graduate talent. The partnerships we have with a number of universities produce many graduates ready for work and who will make a genuine contribution, yet we’re also seeing a worrying increase in graduate candidates who have little more to offer than school leavers. Many have seemingly coasted through university without getting any sort of a grasp of the realities of business.

‘Students must do more to make themselves ready for work. Universities and businesses must play their part in shaping learning that will be meaningful, practical and valuable to prospective employers. If we continue to simply churn out ever increasing numbers of graduates rather than produce quality, rounded individuals, the talent pool on which British business relies will be a rather diluted one.’

Network Rail conducted a survey of around 300 graduates who have entered the Network Rail scheme in recent years. It found:

Half already had an understanding of the career options open to them before university

As students, they got careers advice from a number of sources with 76 per cent choosing the internet, 71 per cent university and 58 per cent friends

Less than half (37 per cent) got advice from careers advisers

16 per cent believe their university course prepared them for employment, with 76 per cent believing it only did so in some ways

Three quarters undertook some work experience or voluntary work during or after their course, with 91 per cent of these believing that it made them more attractive to potential employers