February 20, 2024
Graduate Programs

Corporate Graduate Programs on the rise

Bridging the Graduate Skills Gap: Corporate Programs are on the Rise

Employers worldwide are increasingly turning to their own specialized internal programs to bridge the graduate skills gap, according to the 2023-24 GEURS, the Global Employability University Ranking & Survey. When reflecting on how universities and corporations can successfully cooperate to produce workforce-ready new graduates, employers surveyed in the 2024 GEURS pointed out a few reasons why establishing in-house training programs are currently preferred to joint programs with universities.

Employers are focusing more on customized in-house training programs since they enable companies to efficiently train graduates exactly in accordance with their needs. University partnerships, on the other hand, can be hard to define since corporations and universities have different incentives and divergent operating models. Furthermore, employers noted that university-corporate collaborations have not always produced the desired results. Therefore, for the time being, employers primarily see universities as good sources of talent for recruitment.

Employers’ preference for their own training programs in the GEURS survey mirrors concrete trends in graduate employability, such as the growing popularity of corporate graduate training programs (also known as graduate training schemes or trainee programs). Graduate training programs offer new university graduates one- or two-year placements and often involve participants receiving targeted training and rotating among departments within a given corporation to maximize new graduates’ employability skills. After the program is completed, graduate training program participants have the chance to apply for a permanent job at the company.

In the 2022 GEURS, which offers the survey’s most recent data on graduate training program numbers, 71.4% of employers said that their companies offer specific training programs for new university graduates, up from 50% in 2020. Graduate training programs were even more common among employers hiring internationally — 81.1% of global recruiters offered such schemes according to the 2022 data. Looking on an industry basis, IT employers more frequently offered graduate programs (78.5%) than employers in Business (68.9%) or Engineering (71.7%).

Opportunities for University-Corporate Collaboration on Graduate Employability

While employers currently prefer to design their own training programs in order to bridge the graduate skills gap, they are also open to collaborate with universities to enhance graduate employability. Employers surveyed in the 2024 GEURS said that there certainly are opportunities for universities and corporates to come together and expose students to the demands of the workplace while they are still studying. Furthermore, in the 2022 GEURS, employers signaled that university-corporate cooperation would be a good channel for creating curricula and conducting apprenticeships as well as workshops that teach students business soft skills. Although such cooperative ventures are not yet widespread, universities have made significant efforts to bridge the skills gap for graduates and help them find their first jobs.

Universities have historically seen themselves as providers of a broad education, often based in the natural sciences or liberal arts. Universities will not and should not abandon their goal of providing graduates a broad education that prepares graduates for all kind of challenges they may find. However, graduate employability has become in recent decades a crucial issue for universities.  

In the US for example, universities are addressing the tightening labor market by allocating significant resources toward campus career services to address the graduate skills gap through courses and workshops. (These investments on campus also align with American employers’ call to make graduate employability a university KPI.)  Such moves come at the same time as calls questioning single-minded “learning for learning’s sake” approaches and false dichotomies that pit “education” against “employability”.

It seems likely that the current configuration of graduate skills training will evolve over time, since both corporates and universities are independently dedicating resources toward the same goal: graduate employability. This seems especially probable given that universities and corporations already have a track record of successful collaboration in areas such as the advancement of scientific and technological research. Future partnerships tackling graduate employability will depend on universities and corporates developing models that suit both their needs effectively and, ultimately, placing graduates in jobs where they can thrive and add value.

More about the GEURS:

First released in 2010, the GEURS is the employability ranking consulted most by employers worldwide. The Global Employability University Ranking and Survey, www.employability-ranking.com is an independent global research project on graduate employability which has been produced and commissioned since 2010 by Emerging. It is conducted by the specialised consulting and polling institute Trendence. Published annually first in the New York Times and subsequently in the Times Higher Education.

Emerging, the organizer of the annual GEURS, is a consultancy firm dedicated to corporate clients to help them optimise recruitment and establish tailored partnerships with HE institutions. Pioneers in promoting the employability of young graduates and professionals, they help organisations and governments implement sustainable employability policies. Their experts work side-by-side with senior leaders from the world’s top corporate and academic organisations.

The 2024 GEURS derives its analysis from 100,700 votes from 11,560 operational and international managers, i.e, human resources staff and the managers of first-time employees, in 21 countries. The employers canvassed for this year’s ranking are responsible for hiring 800,000 new graduates in 2023-2024. It is published this year in conjunction with the Times Higher Education (THE).