Episode 1: The lowdown on graduate schemes

Posted
September, 2019

This is a transcript of Episode 1: The lowdown on graduate schemes, from Future You - the careers podcast from Prospects

Contributors

Host: Dan Mason

Guests:

  • Rachel Greenwood and Dan Chadwick, The Co-operative Bank
  • Amy Carpenter, University of Suffolk
  • Michelle Clements and Grace Crawford, Ryanair.

Note on transcripts

These transcripts are produced using a combination of automated software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. The audio version is definitive and should be checked before quoting.

Episode transcript

Dan Mason: Hey everyone, and welcome to the very first episode of Future You, the new podcast from graduate careers experts Prospects. My name's Dan Mason, thanks very much for joining us. You may know our website Prospects.ac.uk as the place to go for advice on graduate careers and to search for graduate jobs. Well, Future You, this podcast, is going to give you an even deeper insight into what it's like to move from university into work by talking to the people who really know: employers, careers advisers, and graduates who've experienced all of that process themselves.

Over the course of this series we'll cover topics such as how to tackle job interviews, identifying the skills that employers expect you to have and how to get them, setting up your job search, getting into entrepreneurship if that's your thing, and much, much more besides. I'm not going to go on too long for now, because we've got a bumper first episode for you right now.

Today we're talking about graduate schemes. What are they? How do you get through the application process? What's it like being on a scheme? What happens when it's over? We're going to answer all of these questions for you now. And we've got recruiters and graduates on schemes at two employers, the Co-operative Bank and Ryanair, to tell you more. And this is going to be really useful for any of you who are considering going for a graduate scheme, not just in banking or in aviation, but in any industry. There's some absolutely fantastic advice coming up so I recommend you stick around for that. We'll also hear from careers adviser Amy Carpenter on the pros and cons of graduate schemes, and also on the alternatives for those of you who don't think that a graduate scheme is right for you.

You can subscribe to Future You in Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts, follow us on Twitter @prospects, or send any questions on graduate careers to podcast@prospects.ac.uk and we'll try to answer those later in the series. Now that's enough from me. Let's get into the show.

I'm joined now by Rachel Greenwood, talent consultant at the Co-operative Bank, and also by Dan Chadwick, who's a products and marketing graduate there. Rachel could I start with you, could you just give us a bit of an overview about the Co-operative Bank and also what graduate schemes are available there?

Rachel Greenwood: So the Co-operative Bank is a successful but relatively small bank, with our headquarters in Manchester. We have 68 branches across the country. We're a bank with 3,500 employees and 3.5 million customers. We are different to other banks as we are centred around our co-operative values and our ethics. So what does that mean? We don't offer banking services to those linked with oppressive regimes, fossil fuel extraction, animal testing, payday lending. And why? Because our customers have told us that is really important to them. So we're looking for graduates who really affiliate with our ethics and values, that's a key thing that we look for in candidates when they apply to our graduate scheme.

In terms of the graduate scheme itself, it's a two-year fast-track development programme, where graduates will learn important skills, knowledge and behaviours to be one of the future leaders within our bank. It's structured with a series of rotations designed to be stretching, and provide real responsibility from day one. Our graduates learn at pace, they grow quickly within an accelerated learning environment, including a blend of on-the-job training, classroom-based training where they'll learn some of the softer skills involved with leadership development. And they'll also study towards a professional qualification, which is relevant to the area that they will go into. We offer a range of different graduate programmes, which are reviewed each year depending on the business needs. But for example, we have programmes that we are offering to graduates for the 2020 programme including Risk, IT and Change, Internal Audit, Finance, Digital, and Banking Leadership, which is more of a generalist leadership programme.

Dan Mason: Ok. And when graduates are thinking about their post-university careers, what would you say are the reasons why they should be looking at graduate schemes as a route to go down, and in particularly your schemes?

Rachel Greenwood: I think graduate programmes offer very structured training programmes, often with a focus on developing key leadership skills and behaviours. It's also very much a fast-track leadership pathway. So our graduate programme is two years, they join the business as a junior analyst, but come off the programme as a junior manager. So if graduates are looking for a quick development pathway to get them to a leadership position, then a graduate programme is often the best way of doing that. Also, it's utilising some of their skills and behaviours that they've learned whilst at university that can be transferred onto a graduate scheme. And also the salary that often comes with a graduate programme is attractive for many students, students finishing university.

Dan Mason: And speaking quite generally, what are you looking for in graduates, when they apply to the Co-operative Bank? Is it job specific skills, is it more looking for soft skills?

Rachel Greenwood: Well we do take on a small number of graduates each year, so it is, it is competitive, but once you're successful in getting on it, it really does provide a great platform for success. In terms of what we look for in a candidate - we are looking for intelligent, highly driven candidates with a real sense of purpose, and with the drive and ambition to be one of our future leaders within the bank. Also, it's really important for us to identify with candidates who really affiliate with our values and ethics. That's a key part of our selection process that graduates are able to showcase that they are in line with our values and ethics. We also look for candidates to be good team players who enjoy working together, working collaboratively, and can be quite creative in their problem solving, and also can deliver at pace as well, which is really important to our business.

Dan Mason: Ok, Dan, turning to you. So you're just coming to the end of your time on the graduate scheme. Is that right?

Dan Chadwick: It is yeah, I've got two months left before I will roll off the graduate programme into a junior manager position in an area of interest to myself.

Dan Mason: Ok, and just taking that back to the beginning then, can you give us a little bit about your background and how you ended up at the Co-operative Bank in terms of what you studied, what your career plans were at that stage, and what attracted you to the to the scheme?

Dan Chadwick: Yeah, sure. So I kind of always had an interest in business-related subjects. I opted to do business studies at GCSE and also business-related subjects through my AS and A-levels. So that kind of set the path to moving onto undergraduate as a business-related subject. And I opted to do a business studies degree at the University of Huddersfield. One of the main reasons I did a business studies degree was I wasn't 100% sure what I wanted to do, I just was interested in commercial strategy, business economics. And the great thing about a business studies degree is that all the disciplines that are so important to businesses in any industry are kind of accounted for. So you'll study things like accountancy, finance, economics, human resources, management, marketing - all these things that are so important to the everyday running of a business.

On completion of my undergraduate degree, I was lucky enough to get a scholarship at the University of Huddersfield to undertake a Master of Arts by research in business and management-related subjects. And I opted to do some research in marketing and brand strategies in both the commercial and political sector, which was really, really interesting. An absolute bonus that it was a scholarship and the university paid for that. But then that paved the way to me looking for for jobs with both a BA and an MA under my belt.

Dan Mason: And when you started looking for jobs, what was it that attracted you to a structured graduate scheme, as opposed to just a different type of graduate job. And then following on from that, why particularly the Co-operative Bank?

Dan Chadwick: Yeah, so for me, I felt that I could have the confidence, I felt like I had the ability and the skills to deliver a real role. And actually a lot of entry-level jobs from leaving university are quite junior, and graduate schemes are notorious for being fast track, you know, you get real responsibility doing a real job on day one. There's fantastic development opportunities that are offered on graduate schemes quite often, and also that you've got the opportunity to really drive change and make an impact in a business. And that is exactly what I wanted to do. And I wanted to do that from day one, not five, ten years down the line.

So with that said, when I was looking for graduate schemes, the Co-operative Bank was of real interest to me for several reasons. The first one, it being a small enough business to do those things and make that difference. As well as the kind of, with that, the real responsibility that I knew I was going to get from day one, and the real roles and the real jobs and the real-time problems that you need to solve to drive that change. But also, a real key reason why I joined the Co-operative Bank and why I was interested in it was the commitment to the values and ethics that the bank has made. I really wanted to work for an organisation that aligned to my personal values and my ethics, and an organisation that was committed to the things that I personally believe in, you know, want to see in in a business. And it's true that, you know, the Co-operative Bank is a different kind of bank, the values and ethics really do truly run through everything that it does. And a really interesting point that before I applied for the bank, and what was a key reason why I applied for the bank was the fact that it's got an ethical policy that's guarded by its customers, which is great and really interesting.

And I guess the final reason why I applied is that it's a north-west, Manchester-based employer. So I'm from Lancashire originally, and I studied in West Yorkshire so I've always kind of been in the north, quite a lot my family and friends and connections are in the north. And quite notoriously, particularly finance and banking-related graduate schemes tend to be London-centric. So that was another reason why there was a fantastic opportunity to join a fantastic organisation that was based in Manchester, which is a great city to both live and work in.

Dan Mason: So Rachel, could you give us a bit of an overview of the formal entry requirements for the graduate scheme?

Rachel Greenwood: Yes, well, we ask for candidates to have a 2:1 degree or 2:2 with a Masters. And that degree can be in any discipline, we welcome all different types of university courses. We have graduates with degrees in chemistry that have gone into IT and Change and are now project managers. We also have candidates that have studied law and graduates that have gone into Digital and are now digital executives, so we do welcome a whole host of different degree courses. Another stipulation in terms of education requirements are the five GCSEs A to C and that has to include maths and English as well.

Dan Mason: Ok, and so once a student or graduate has decided this is the scheme for them, what's the application process? What do they have to go through in order to succeed?

Rachel Greenwood: Our selection process has five clear stages offering candidates plenty of opportunities to be themselves and showcase what they can do and what they can bring to the organisation. Those five steps include an online application where they will submit their CV. Second stage would be psychometric tests, where we invite candidates to complete a verbal and numerical test. The third stage is what we call our higher view stage. And that is very much a video assessment, including a video presentation, and interview. And that's all around our ethics and values, and the kind of research candidates have done around the Co-operative Bank.

The fourth stage is the assessment centre, where we invite candidates into our headquarters in Manchester. And they will undertake a variety of activities, very typical of a graduate programme, and including a role play, interview, group task and presentation. And it's very much a two-way process. As much as it is us interviewing them and assessing them for a role within our bank, it's all about giving them the opportunity to assess us as a potential employer. It's also a great opportunity for them to come to the workplace, see what our workplace culture is like, get to network with some of our current graduates on the programme, to really understand what life is like as a graduate at the Co-operative Bank. Then the final stage is going back to our head office in Manchester to meet with a senior leader within the function that they have applied. And this is really to ensure the right fit for the bank, and to ensure that their motivations and aspirations align with what we can offer them on the graduate programme.

Dan Mason: Dan, as someone who's been through this application process relatively recently, what's your perspective on it?

Dan Chadwick: So the application process at the Co-operative Bank is really pretty much the same that you'd find with any organisation that you're offering graduate schemes. Yes, it is pretty long. And yes, there's quite a few stages to undertake. But, you know, it's not as daunting and it's not as scary as you think. I actually found that the Co-operative Bank's process was actually quite informal, quite friendly at times, particularly when you got to the assessment centre and got an invite into Balloon Street, our head office in Manchester, it was quite apparent from, you know, from walking in the building that this was not going to be a too uptight formal day, it was quite friendly, and everyone was very approachable.

I think the thing that I find most difficult in the stages of the application process was probably the psychometric tests, there's a particular way to, to approach these tests, they are a little bit tricky until you just get your head around them. But there's plenty of free online practice materials, if you just put psychometric test practice into a search engine, these resources will come up. So it's worth spending half an hour or an hour before you start undertaking the final test just to get your head round it and, you know, it's not a surprise to you, then that would be my advice. But as in terms of the assessment centre at the, at the Co-operative Bank, I actually really enjoyed the day. And one thing I will say, honestly, about the Co-operative Bank assessment day is it was super informal, super friendly. I have undertaken other graduate assessment centre days before I was successful at the Co-operative Bank and some of those were quite intense and quite difficult. Whereas actually, the colleagues at the bank really do put you at ease. So it is nothing to be too daunted by and it's just having the confidence really to apply and give it a go.

Dan Mason: Great. So obviously you were successful through that process and ended up on the scheme. Could you talk to us a bit about the day-to-day experience of being on the graduate scheme? What's that like? What's the relationship with other graduates on the scheme, with senior staff, just give us an overview of that.

Dan Chadwick: Yeah. So on day-to-day, because of the size and the nature of the business, you do get a real opportunity to really own the roles that you undertake at the bank. So every six months, you change placements, you rotate around the business, in your area, so you get a real wide range of experience while on the scheme. But one thing that you are definitely given from day one is a real opportunity to kind of deliver and deliver at pace in the role that you're in. You're given real responsibility and you're kind of entrusted to deliver a role that you're working alongside people that have been there five, ten years' experience, and you're delivering very similar projects, very, very similar pieces of work, which is fantastic.

In terms of support that you get at the bank, quite often your line manager is a senior member of staff who really is dedicated to your personal development and your career development, which is fantastic. You are given a senior mentor on starting at the bank, which is also really useful. This tends to be a mentor that isn't in your direct business area so they can offer real kind of independent advice on anything from career progression to potentially any problems that you're having, any problem solving on the pieces of work you're doing. It's just kind of another person to utilise and get their experience and understand from their point of view in the senior role, what would they do and what would their advice be, which is, it's been really, really useful. It's been, it's a really great thing that that's offered to graduates.

In terms of the graduate community, in the bank at the moment, there's about 40 graduates spanning across all the departments in different years and been there at different periods. So you're also given what we call the grad buddy. So graduates are paired up with an older graduate so it's, I found that one of the most useful things in the first couple of months of my time at the bank because that is someone who has absolutely walked the path that you're walking. And not only that, you can ask them those questions that you might feel a little bit silly, a little bit embarrassed asking a senior leader, just things like kind of what's the dress code? You know those things that everyone worries about starting a new job. You're buddied up with your graduate buddy prior to starting on the scheme. So I met my my grad buddy for coffee a couple of months before I started at the bank and it just really, really put you at ease. They give you a little bit of an insight into what to expect, really for the first couple of months in the bank.

In terms of experience that I've got, there's so much to talk about. But one standout moment for me was I was lucky enough in my last placement, I joined the brand team at a time when the Co-operative Bank was relaunching its brand, which was a fantastic experience. And I was given the opportunity to work alongside the marketing director and the head of brand and marketing to set the strategy and to onboard our marketing and advertising agency partner. And then from the strategy, I was given the responsibility to own end-to-end the social media campaign that went alongside the new brand relaunch, which was a real eye-opening experience. So I don't really have a background in social media. I've got experience in marketing through my studies and the time that I've had at the bank, but I was given real responsibility, and really entrusted to deliver that end-to-end. So from taking the brand idea to the agency, to brief in the agency, to going through creative development to executing that, to looking at how we segment and how we target the communications to customers and non-customers, and then also working with the agency to optimise once we were live. And that was a really high budget, high profile campaign and I was absolutely given the responsibility to lead on that to make decisions, and my opinion and the experience and the skills that I had was really valued by my colleagues in marketing and the senior members of staff that was ultimately responsible for that campaign going live. So you really are given an opportunity to really own something and drive change and make an impact. And you know, it's been a fantastic experience and I've learned so much.

Dan Mason: So Rachel, Dan's spoken a lot there about having lots of responsibility during the scheme and learning new skills. What's the sort of formal training and progression that's involved with the with the graduate scheme?

Rachel Greenwood: We do provide a really structured leadership development pathway to support our graduates during the programme. And as I said, the graduates come in as an analyst and move into a junior management level position at the end of the two-year programme. And what we need to do during those two years is really give them a toolkit with those skills and behaviours so they can transition off the programme into a role of their choice. So that development is a different blend of activities including classroom-based training. Obviously the on-the-job training through the rotational placements that they undertake, giving them that real responsibility from day one in each of those placements.

We also sponsor graduates to do professional qualifications. So our finance graduates will do an appropriate accountancy qualification, whether that's ACA, ACCA or the CIMA qualification. And also what's probably quite different in terms of what we offer, compared to perhaps some other schemes, is that exposure to senior leaders within our bank. So from day one our new graduate cohort come to the bank, and they will have an introductory session with Andrew Bester, our CEO. Throughout their induction they will meet various senior leaders and members of the executive committee to give an introduction around their areas, their functions and the priorities in those areas.

Dan Mason: And then once the graduates reach the end of the scheme, what's the process, there are the guaranteed jobs? Is there an expectation of employment? How does it work?

Rachel Greenwood: Well, all graduates do have a permanent contract from day one. So when they do come to the end of their two-year programme, it's not a case of saying thank you goodbye, we've obviously invested a lot into the graduates, and we want them to stay with us. And we do have a really good retention rate in terms of the graduates staying with the company. So the more a graduate puts into the programme, the more they are likely to get out of the programme at the end, and more likely to succeed in a role, which meets their aspirations. We've got a large number of success stories of graduates moving into senior leader roles within a couple of years finishing the programme. So that talent and so that support network doesn't just finish as a graduate moves off the programme, that does continue. And the mentoring support continues, as they come off the programme to really build that personal development plan to help the graduate meet their longer term career aspirations.

Dan Mason: And Dan, we've mentioned that you're coming to the end of the scheme, what are your thoughts on it now that you're coming to the end and thinking about what you might do next.

Dan Chadwick: Yeah, so the very nature of the graduate scheme means that you, you move around every six months into different areas and different departments. And that's actually quite useful, because it allows you to kind of test different jobs and test different areas and understand actually, where am I at? What am I interested in? Where does my personal skillset best fit? Where my personal strengths and how can I utilise them best in a department in the bank? So I've really enjoyed my time in the marketing department, and also the corporate communications team. So in the next two to three months, as I look to roll off the programme, I'll begin having conversations with senior leaders within those two directorates. And this is really exciting, because you know, y very much, it's a two way, it's a two way street, that they're also keen to ensure that they develop graduates and that there's opportunities for graduates to join their team. So I really do look forward to those conversations over the next couple of months to determine where I roll off the scheme, but for me, it's in a marketing or communications type role within the bank.

Dan Mason: And do you have any final bits of advice for someone who's maybe in their final year of university or just graduated and looking at graduate schemes now

Dan Chadwick: It's having the confidence just to apply and I know a lot of these application processes are long and they're quite laborious and quite daunting at times, but you know, they're nowhere near as bad as you think they're going to be. So certainly have the confidence just to apply and not worry, whether you think your skillset or whether you think your degree is purposeful in that area, quite often graduate recruiters just want you to have a degree, it's more about your personal values and your personal strengths really, that they're looking for.

And when you get to an assessment centre, or a group interview type stage, my best advice would be from my experience of doing a few of these is it isn't always about the loudest person in the room or the most confident person sat around the table. And quite often it's not always about either the person that's got the best grades too, I found that actually, that if you just be yourself, and you can show that you've got similar passion and similar enthusiasm for the organisation's mission and objectives and culture than quite often that's enough. So you know, have the confidence to apply and just go for it. Because you know, the skills that you'll learn, and the experiences that you'll have is fantastic.

Dan Mason: Brilliant. Thanks very much, Dan, Rachel, thanks very much for your time today.

Dan Chadwick: Thank you.

Dan Mason: I'm joined now by Amy Carpenter, employability and progression adviser at the University of Suffolk. Hi, Amy.

Amy Carpenter: Hi Dan.

Dan Mason: So graduate schemes we're talking about this week, what would you say makes a graduate scheme a good option, and how is a graduate scheme different from what you might call a regular graduate job?

Amy Carpenter: So one of the main things with a graduate scheme is that it is typically going to be for a fixed period of time, and in fixed areas. So a lot of them will say that you are perhaps in a department, or in a certain team, or that it will obviously give you some rotation opportunities as well, depending on the organisation, so if it's an international company, sometimes they'll give you the opportunity to visit an office, perhaps in another country as well, perhaps for even just for a week or for a longer period of time. So it's a really structured experience where you know, from day one, what departments probably that you're going to work in, what you're going to get out of it, how long it's going to last as well, be it some 18 months, two years, three years, and what you'll be doing in that time, so you can clearly plan ahead thinking, ok, this is what I want to get out of it. And you know, things can change during the graduate scheme, if you find that you particularly maybe want to work in another department, or that you've enjoyed a certain aspect. So you could speak to managers, that kind of thing and see if you could do something else alongside of it. But it's just a great opportunity to be exposed to a few different parts of an organisation.

Dan Mason: And which sorts of students or recent graduates do you think should be looking at graduate schemes? Who does it suit, are there particular types of people who are best suited to these kinds of jobs?

Amy Carpenter: I think it depends on the organisation, and what you hope to get out of it. Potentially, I think anyone could do a graduate scheme. But some of the things to consider perhaps are do you need to relocate? Perhaps the roles are actually only in their head office in a couple of locations. So if you're based in a different location, and you need to relocate to work there, can you relocate? Or are you constrained within a certain geographical location? And they are very intense. Often, they'll also involve professional qualifications and study. Perhaps it could be an accountancy qualification, or an insurance qualification, or marketing qualification, management qualification. And so you just need to consider that you'll be working probably full time and then studying alongside that. So you just need to consider whether you want to do that as well. Or whether you would perhaps prefer to pursue a job at this point in time without the extra study, and then perhaps do that in the future.

Dan Mason: So what would you say are the great benefits of being on a graduate scheme? Is it the structure and training that's involved?

Amy Carpenter: Yes, I think that's one of the main things really, because it gives you an opportunity to meet lots of different people. And often graduate schemes, they'll run events, just networking events, as well, so that you get to meet all of the other graduates that you've joined with. So you can build a good support network of people who are in the same position as you. You normally would have a mentor plus a manager, so you've got people that you can speak to, learn from, and discuss things with. And it's just a fantastic opportunity to really find out a good insight into an organisation really grow and develop as an individual and make your mark on an organisation as well. There's lots of successful examples of people who've done graduate schemes, and very quickly progress in their career at the other end of it as whether it be with that organisation, or they've moved to somewhere else.

Dan Mason: And in terms of entry requirements, they tend to most of them expect 2:1 degrees is that right for graduate schemes, or can it vary?

Amy Carpenter: It can, again, it can vary, a lot of them will put 2:1 or 2:2 as a minimum, although some organisations have taken out completely where they just say we want to degree from you, which opens up opportunities to obviously everyone. And the other thing to consider is whether they have an A-level minimum requirement, or even a GCSE or equivalent minimum requirement as well. Some organisations will say that they want perhaps three Bs to get onto the graduate scheme at A-level or UCAS tariff equivalent. So if you don't perhaps have that A-level tariff, I would always recommend speaking to the organisation still and seeing if there's other opportunities to join them, or whether they would still consider your application. Particularly if you've had, there were other circumstances as to why you perhaps didn't achieve the three Bs or whatever it is, it always doesn't hurt to ask if it's an organisation that you really want to work for.

Dan Mason: And a lot of the schemes, especially modern general ones, don't specify a subject often do they?

Amy Carpenter: No, so it's really interesting that they can be quite... yeah, they're just people with a degree because they know that the skills that you get from just being able to complete a degree is such a massive achievement in itself, that they are happy to accept applications from, yeah, from anyone. So, which is really good. So it means that even, you know, you've chosen to do a degree, you're probably still not pigeonholed into a certain career, which is really nice.

Dan Mason: Ok, so graduate schemes, obviously a great idea for lots of people who, but who might not be suited to go on a graduate scheme, because this isn't the be-all and end-all of graduate jobs is it? What are the downsides to graduate schemes and who might not really fit into that type of that type of working?

Amy Carpenter: I think one of the downsides is often some graduate schemes can be fixed-term contracts, so actually you're on the job for two years or three years, but there isn't necessarily the guaranteed permanent position at the other end. Whereas if you go into just a direct entry, normal graduate job, then that might be temporary as well, you never know what types of jobs are out there. But if it's permanent, then you know you're getting a permanent job from day one. And it's just whether you want to put yourself into quite an intense position for that period of time. And perhaps, yeah the relocation side of it as well, are the things to consider. But often as well, if you have conversations with organisations, you'll find that different organisations actually run graduate schemes, perhaps closer to home. I think a lot of people think that you have to go and work in London, or in one of the, in Manchester, for example, or one of the big cities to go and get on a graduate scheme. And actually, that's not always the case. I know, for us, in Ipswich, we're about an hour from London, but we've got BT right on our doorstep, which has a massive graduate scheme, for example. So there's lots of opportunities that might just be around the corner from home as well, that you're not quite aware of

Dan Mason: And the graduate schemes tend to be with large companies, the sort of prestige opportunities, but there's a lot of other graduate jobs out there aren't there with smaller organisations, small and medium-sized enterprises that students could look to?

Amy Carpenter: Yeah, definitely. So I mean, there's always so many jobs out there that people say that they would like a graduate or someone with a degree, and particularly with the small to medium enterprises - SMEs, is how you probably know them - often they'll have individual jobs. And they work quite closely with universities quite often, because they know that they've got a great pool of candidates just probably on their doorstep. So I would definitely look at your university jobs boards, and have a look on LinkedIn and reach out to those SMEs as well that when you do some research, and that you might be interested in working for because as there are smaller company, typically, it might give you a bit more exposure to all parts of the business. So if you go and work for a marketing agency, for example, but actually, the team is only about 20 in size, you're probably going to have experience of HR or finance, of the technical side of it, might work quite closely with the director or the CEO. So you're also seeing how the business is run. Whereas with the graduate schemes, you probably won't get exposed to quite the expanse of experiences. So it just depends whether you want to be in the big companies where the might be hundreds or thousands of individuals, or those smaller companies, where it's a much smaller team, and you can yeah, just sort of be involved in many, many more things at once.

Dan Mason: Can you just, you mentioned it there, but could you just expand a bit on - obviously, you see the adverts for graduate schemes all the time, you know, everyone knows about them, it can be harder to find the jobs at SMEs can't it? How can students and graduates go about finding these roles because they're not necessarily advertised as graduate jobs, they might just be advertised as a regular job, for example?

Amy Carpenter: Yeah, definitely. So I think have a look on your university jobs board as well. Because if you particularly want to work in marketing, for example, if you type marketing as a keyword in to one of the search engines have a look and see what roles come up. Because when you start to read the role, they might not even say that they want a graduate, it's just that they want someone with these X, Y Z skills and experiences and it could be the perfect job for you. And also have a look and do a bit of research as to what organisations are perhaps in your local area, because they might not even have a job being advertised. But reach out to them because they might not have just ever considered it, they might not realise that they have a gap for a graduate in their organisation. And if you go and approach them, ask to see whether you could perhaps shadow them for a little bit or go in and meet them. They might realise that actually they've got space for graduate in their organisation and the new ideas and things that will bring, so you just never know.

Dan Mason: Thanks very much to Amy for that. And just to let you know, we're going to be hearing from Amy throughout the series to discuss all the different topics that we've got lined up for this series of Future You. So it's definitely worth subscribing to hear more tips from her. Now let's move on to the second of our employers on the show today, the airline Ryanair. I spoke to Michelle Clements and Grace Crawford from Ryanair over Skype to find out more about their graduate scheme.

I'm joined now by Michelle Clements, senior talent acquisition specialist at Ryanair and also Grace Crawford, flight operations bases manager also at Ryanair. Welcome to Future you.

Michelle Clements: Hi Dan. Thank you.

Dan Mason: Thanks very much for joining us.

Michelle Clements: Yeah, no problem. Thanks for having us.

Dan Mason: If I could just start with you then Michelle, could you just quickly give us an overview of the graduate schemes that are available there at Ryanair and what sort of areas they cover?

Michelle Clements: Yeah, course. So our office graduate programme is a two-year programme and kick starts every September. We host programmes across each area of the business that includes finance, commercial legal, sales and marketing, digital experience, operations and in-flight. We also have a separate IT graduate programme, which is a 12-month programme specialising in one of the following areas. So we have software development, quality assurance, BI and data analytics, infrastructure and support, and project management.

Dan Mason: Ok, and when you're going through the recruitment process for these for graduate schemes, what are the general traits that you look for in graduates? I know obviously, there'll be specific ones for the different graduate schemes. But are there general skills and traits that you look for in graduates?

Michelle Clements: Yeah, so apart from having obviously the relevant degree, we do look for those that have taken on internships, or any working experience during the summer outside of their degree. I suppose the people that work best here are those that are ambitious and driven. So we find that people that have got experience in their own time are definitely ones that work out here best.

Dan Mason: And could you just give us a quick overview of the application process itself? What stages are involved?

Michelle Clements: Yeah, so we try and not make it too lengthy. So our applications will open in about October, they'll close the end of January, they will go through screening on the Talent Team, including screening calls. Those that we deem suitable will go forward to the hiring managers in their relevant departments, where we will have one to two face-to-face interviews, typically, a general kind of HR side interview for the first round and the final round being a presentation or task that we will give them.

Dan Mason: And just thinking sort of generally about graduate schemes and students who are considering applying to them, what for you differentiates a graduate scheme from just a regular graduate job, what makes going on to a graduate scheme a different experience?

Michelle Clements: So for our graduate scheme, in particular, we do our best to make sure we're giving them the best foundation in the area that they have applied for. So the way it works would be it's a two-year programme, a graduate will come into their chosen area, so for example, if it was digital, and digital experience, they would do four rotations of six months, in each of the four pillars that we have outlined within digital. So they will do a rotation, firstly, in digital marketing, then they would move on to product, brand design, and then lastly digital insights. An example for another commercial graduate would be, they would do a first rotation in commercial finance, then scheduling, then yield and then route development. So our graduates get an a real goes foundation of the department that they've gone into and in absolutely all areas.

Dan Mason: Yeah, so it's very much a structured training and progression during the period of the graduate scheme.

Michelle Clements: Exactly. I know on other programmes they could go into a department and stay on that team the whole two years. We just thought it would be more beneficial for them. Because the areas are so broad here and when they come in the door, day one, they don't know exactly which area they would do best in or which they would enjoy the most. So we think rotating them around the areas is the best way to do it.

Dan Mason: And turning to yourself Grace, could you just give us a bit of background about what you studied and where and also, when you were at university what career plans you had at that stage just so we can, you know, see how you progressed onto the onto the graduate scheme?

Grace Crawford: Yeah, absolutely. So I studied business studies in DCU. And I suppose kind of the reason for studying that was that when I left school, I had no idea what I wanted to do, but I would kind of, I enjoyed the business, I studied economics in school and business. So I really thought that they would be the areas that I would then that I'd like to study. So I studied those. And then at that stage, kind of in college, I didn't really know, to be honest, what kind of area of work specifically that I'd go into. So it was only kind of during my internship that I realised kind of, let's say the industry, the aviation industry, is kind of the area that I enjoyed. So I did my internship in another airline. So kind of that helped me decide what industry I would like to go into for my future career.

Dan Mason: Ok, that's interesting. So what drew you to that, into the aviation industry and that internship in the first place?

Grace Crawford: So when we were in college, in third year, we had the opportunity to, to do an internship for the year, and loads of different internships came up, and we just had to apply for different ones. And the aviation one just kind of interests me in terms of the fact that the industry itself is so fast moving and that, like, the whole industry, I found was just evolving as well and always expanding. And it's just something that I always had an interest in, because across an airline, as Michelle was saying, there's so many different departments in that airline. So if you have an interest in the industry, there's so many opportunities within different departments, that you can go into so it just it really did interest me and I love actually the internship as well.

Dan Mason: So once that internship came to an end, were you looking around at different graduate schemes at different airlines? And what made you apply to the Ryanair scheme?

Grace Crawford: Yeah, so at the end of my internship, I returned to college for one more year, and in my final year I was looking around, obviously, for jobs, and my plan was always to get back into another airline. But in Ireland, like, obviously, we don't have many airlines available. So I really did want to get into an airline. And so I was keeping an eye out for Ryanair to hopefully advertise. And at the time, when they did advertise, it was actually the first time they had done the graduate programme. So I was really lucky that it was my year that it was available to so I applied for it. And thank God, I got it. I really enjoyed it.

Dan Mason: So Michelle earlier gave us a quick overview of the application process, Grace, how did you find the application itself and the various stages of it?

Grace Crawford: Yeah, the application was quite a quick process to be honest, in terms of doing the, so obviously, they did the screening of the CVs, I got a call to kind of just run through a few questions with me about it. Then I got a call back about two weeks later, asking me if I was interested in a face-to-face interview. So I came in and I had an interview with the head of retail and the director of in-flight, then after that a couple weeks later, I got a call then to do a presentation to them, which I did. And then I got the call offering me the job at the end of it. So I can't say that the process was too complicated by any means. It was kind of very straightforward and all of that, they made it easy for me, let's say,

Dan Mason: Yeah, so relatively straightforward, then, but did you did you feel like it was a really competitive sort of process, or we are made to feel quite comfortable throughout?

Grace Crawford: They definitely made me feel comfortable. I was aware, obviously, that there was other, that there was other candidates interviewing in the pipeline as well. And there was a lot of demand for it, I have to say I had heard of other people, let's say in my college degree, that were applying for it as well. So I knew that it was quite competitive. But in terms of the interviews and the presentation, the two interviewers definitely made me feel really comfortable during both.

Dan Mason: And Michelle, what kind of environment do you try and create for new graduates? Obviously, when you have a graduate scheme, you have a few graduates presumably all starting the same time. Once they start on the scheme do you try and make it an enjoyable social environment? Or is it very much high pressure, you know, business environment? What's it like being on those, for the first few months of the graduate scheme?

Michelle Clements: Yeah, so I mean, look, we definitely work in a demanding high-pressured, fast-paced environment. And, you know, we don't want to sugar-coat at all because the people that stay on here permanently will be working in this environment anyway. And you know, you either love it or hate it. And we all certainly love it. So we definitely want to make sure that the people that we bring on board, enjoyed our environment. On the other side of that you know, we do have everyone started on the same day, we do a full day of onboarding.

This September we'll have 24 graduates starting together. I know they're in already Skype groups, of course a lot of people are relocating and they're sorting out accommodation together already, which is great. And, you know, we have graduates from all over Europe join the programme. I know the graduate programme from last year, all went on a trip a few weeks ago. So I know they're all still very good friends. And they're definitely a tight knit group. But look apart from that, like it is, it's a lot of hard work. You know, definitely it's rewarding and, you know, you'll get out of it what you put in.

Dan Mason: And Grace from your point of view, how have you found the day-to-day experience, are you given lots of responsibility early on? Do you build up good relationships with the other graduates on the programme? What's the day-to-day experience? What was the day-to-day experience like for you?

Grace Crawford: Yeah, absolutely. Like, I got the opportunity to work alongside their director of in-flight for my first rotation. So know, obviously, I worked really hard during that time, but let's say in the evening time and all of that I had a great relationship with the other graduates that started at the same time as me. So we're a good group of friends. And we've done trips away, we've done nights out, all of that, after work we would meet up and, and all of that, like we've definitely got a great social scene here. But I suppose Monday to Friday, hard work, we do get on with it, we get our work done. And then let's say an evening, the weekends, our spare time we have a great social scene, I would say, amongst us all.

Dan Mason: Was it different to you expected? Or is it pretty much as you as you thought it would be? You know, were your expectations of the scheme quite accurate going into it?

Grace Crawford: Yeah, absolutely. Like I came into the scheme not knowing and because obviously it was the first year and not knowing what it was going to be like. And when I got in, I got to trial that the different departments, it actually exceeded my expectations, let's say, in terms of the experience that I got, I never thought that I would get opportunities to work alongside people, for example, directors and heads of departments and all that, it gave me really good exposure. And I got like my hands into the really interesting things. And I got to see things, let's say that I thought I would never get the opportunity to do.

Really hands on experience, it definitely exceeded my expectations. I didn't expect... sometimes kind of the fear is when you go into let's say an internship or a graduate programme, that you will be that person that, let's say does the photocopying and the admin and all of that and that was kind of my fear about kind of any of these programmes that you would kind of just be shoved in the corner and given kind of the admin-y stuff. And obviously, nobody really wants that job coming straight out of college. So to get in and to be given the responsibility that I was given in the space of a few weeks, obviously, I was trained up on all the different things that I needed. But I was given responsibility as if I was an employee in there with a like a sole task. And I wasn't treated any differently let's say the fact that I was a graduate.

Dan Mason: So was your scheme a two-year scheme, is that correct?

Grace Crawford: Yeah, it was. So it was two years starting in September, I had four different rotations. So every six months.

Dan Mason: And so over the course of that scheme, did you, did the experience of it change your longer term career ambitions or confirm what you already thought? How did it affect the way you think about you in career?

Grace Crawford: Yeah, absolutely. It changed everything I suppose. Obviously, by going into the different areas, you find out what you like, and what's enjoyable, and what you're actually good at as well. Your niche, kind of, I guess. So I'm now a flight ops base manager. After the programme I applied for a job obviously in the company once the programme ended and became a flight ops base manager. And obviously, I, I never ever thought that I would work in something like that. But it was only when I started in the graduate programme and meeting people and, you know, I was out-and-about when I was travelling with work and kind of the experience that I got, and the parts that I enjoyed of kind of speaking to people and all of that, that I got into the job that I'm in now, when I never thought before I came on the programme, that that's what I'd end up doing. But in the end, that's just the part that I enjoyed. I guess.

Dan Mason: So Michelle, what's your general aim with the graduates on the scheme? Is it sort of a weeding out process for the ones that you then want to stay at the company longer term? Or is your aim to develop these graduates and then just see what happens next? What the overall goal in terms of what happens after graduates finish the schemes?

Michelle Clements: Yeah, so it's definitely a very certain type of person that gets on well here and in the talent team, we're well aware of what we're looking for. So as if we were looking for someone for a permanent role, that's how we interview for the graduate programme. We would never take anyone on the programme that we didn't think would work out long term. I'd say of all the 24 candidates starting in September, you know, we would hope that they would work out in a permanent role afterwards. Definitely, the graduate programme is a great way for us to train people in over the two years, and really see where they would do best in and then have them work in those areas.

Dan Mason: Ok, so yeah, there can be a perception sometimes among graduates that these schemes are sort of two-year job interviews, but you're saying it's very much the application process for the graduate scheme is where you make a decision about whether you think they're a good fit for the company?

Michelle Clements: Absolutely, we would get hundreds of applications for every single programme. And we're very strict on how we slim that down. And the people that we choose are definitely people that we think would work out here long term. And just to kind of echo what Grace was saying, you know, our graduates aren't coming in to do admin work or to assist anyone in their positions. They're very much a part of the team from day one, you know, they're on the front line, they're working with all of our major stakeholders, as we have a really flat structure here. So Grace is working with our directors from day one. And we need people to be switched on and ready to work from day one. So we're, we're looking for kind of highly ambitious, hardworking graduates to come in. And yeah, hopefully stay with us longer term, like Grace has done.

Dan Mason: And Grace, could you just finally, do you have any advice for students, current students, or recent graduates who are looking at graduate schemes in terms of whether it's in the application process, or whether it's how to go about, you know, on a day-to-day basis on a graduate scheme, how to impress?

Grace Crawford: The main thing I suppose is that you kind of when you come in to Ryanair, that you're, you're open to different things, open to different opportunities, and that you kind of get into the nitty gritty and it really will benefit you and get involved in things in Ryanair, like, as I said, there's so many people working for the company, now you need so many people, it's great to get involved in different things. And you know, just really get into the detail and throw yourself into it from day one. And you really will get the great experience that you deserve after, after studying for three, four years in college, you know, you want to, I suppose be rewarded for this as well.

And it's just I can't express enough, like, how good the experience is here and how much you learn, like, in my two years in the graduate programme, I never thought that I would learn so much about the company in terms of you get such a rounded understanding of the company and the operation and how everything works. Because at the end of the day you visited four departments, four different sections of departments, you see how the whole department works and the company and everything. It's just, it really is brilliant. So my suggestion kind of, to other graduates coming in is just throw yourself into it, work hard and you'll be rewarded. Like, it is a really good graduate programme, I have to say.

Dan Mason: So highly recommended it sounds like.

Grace Crawford: Absolutely, absolutely, yeah.

Dan Mason: And Michelle, any advice finally, for students who are applying for graduate schemes? How can how can they really impress potential employers such as Ryanair?

Michelle Clements: Well definitely, as I mentioned earlier, making sure that they have internships or any kind of work experience on the side alongside college. And you know, we're looking for people that go above and beyond to get the experience that they want, you know, people are under pressure in college with part-time jobs and getting their exams done. Well, you know, we're looking for those really, really ambitious people, the select few that will, you know, spend their midterms or their summer holidays, working in other internships just to gain that experience. It just really kind of shows us that ambition and drive. So definitely we're looking for those kind of people coming into our programme.

Dan Mason: Brilliant. Well, thank you so much for joining us, Michelle, and Grace, that's been excellent.

Ok, that's everything for this first episode of Future You. As I said, a bit of an epic first show, but I'm sure you'll agree loads of brilliant insights and advice from our guests there. Thanks again to Dan and Rachel from the Co-operative Bank, Michelle and Grace from Ryanair, and of course Amy Carpenter as well. Don't forget to subscribe to Future You in your favourite podcast app, and do send us any questions or comments to podcast@prospects.ac.uk or on Twitter @prospects. I hope you'll join us for the next episode. But in the meantime, head to the website, Prospects.ac.uk where you can read loads more about graduate schemes and see which employers are hiring right now. Thanks very much for listening to Future You. We'll be releasing new episodes fortnightly, so hopefully speak to you very soon.

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