Grad-Free BT Creates Its Own Brain Drain

Last Updated Aug 24, 2009 8:10 AM EDT


"Want to kick-start your career with a fast-developing global company," asks a page of BT's website, apparently unaware BT has suspended its graduate recruitment programme. Students should prepare for a kick in the teeth rather than a kick-start.

Does BT have a duty to take on a quota of university graduates? A quarter of a million youngsters spill out of universities and colleges each year and if one of the country's top 10 employers cannot take them on, what company will?
The truth is the fast-developing company is fast contracting, axing 15,000 jobs in the past year with another 5,000 set to go, plus 10,000 contract workers. Pay's been frozen and the 150,000 still on the payroll were earlier this year offered longer holidays in exchange for pay cuts. In that environment, taking on any new employees looks like a luxury.

Surely it's better for a company to show its loyalty to existing staff rather than concerning itself with the careers of students it does not know.

BT is not alone in curbing graduate recruitment. City investment banks and solicitors have cut back or invited those with job offers to delay their start. The Association of Graduate Recruiters reckons that across the Britain there are 25 per cent fewer jobs available for students leaving this year. BT's high-profile example may make other major employers wonder why they are still doing the milk round.

One consequence is that graduates take positions previously meant for those with only A-levels and the A-level scholars revert jobs for those with GCSEs.

Are they going to feel they've wasted time and money studying, when they could've joined the workforce two or three years ago? It also forces down wage expectations and pushes the unemployment onto those without any qualifications -- almost a million people under 25 are currently jobless.

But if society worries about a(nother) lost generation, companies like BT should fear a lost generation of talent within their organisations.

This year's tranche of graduates may be the last BT takes on for some years. For decades there will be a missing band of graduates currently in their early 20s.

A technology company surely needs a steady intake of good brains. Indeed, some of its own top executives are products of the graduate recruitment scheme.

When the upturn comes, BT may rush to reverse its policy and raid rivals for graduates from the 2010 generation, but by then it will have ruined its reputation on campuses and have lost its internal recruitment and training structure.

BT never actually took on that many graduates -- but it received 37 applications for each job. The difficulty of today's students in finding work is not a wasted part of the learning process and it is not BT's role to solve youth unemploymen. Even so, its short-term saving could prove a medium-term loss.

(Photo: weegeebored, CC2.0)