The Milburn Report – Fair access to the professions?

The Milburn Report looking at fair access to the professions raises some interesting points about internships and the barriers to wider take up of them. Here are some of my thoughts, building on those from the RateMyPlacement.co.uk blog post today:

I think one of the main barriers to entry for those seeking to get into the professions is a lack of knowledge of what opportunities are available, family contacts within those professions, and understanding of how to get in.

With a whole new generation of people being the first in their immediate family to go to university there is a massive group of people who don’t know what they have to be doing to get a good graduate job at the end of their university life. Those families who have experienced it know what they have to do and get out there and do it, this is where universities (and earlier) careers advisory services need to do a better job.

A lot of the time with the internships (Especially when younger) it is about who you know. Which naturally disadvantages those who have no contacts in that line of work (or don’t know they should be utilising them). The graph below show that around 15% of internships were secured through family and friends, I reckon that it’s actually quite a bit higher than this suggests (with people maybe applying online but then put down “my dad is head of ### dept.” and magically get accepted).

Milburn Report 2009 - Method of Securing Internships

Milburn Report 2009 - Method of Securing Internships

I agree about the 12-month industrial placements. I only applied to those university courses which gave the chance of taking a year out to gain some valuable work experience. Having gained great experience on my placement for a major car manufacturer, although not related to my accounting degree, I think everyone should be doing one. Although if everyone did one, there would need to be a massive rise in the number of placement opportunities available, as the competition is high enough as it is!

The experience you can gain from a year of working, doing proper work with a major impact on the organisation (like I was doing) not just little projects, is infinitely more valuable than 8 weeks over a summer holiday.

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One Response to “The Milburn Report – Fair access to the professions?”

  1. Ali Lindsay Says:

    Hi Richard, thanks for your comments on our blog, I’ll return the favour.

    From my own experiences, and from what we have found from RateMyPlacement there are two main reasons why students will take some form of work experience.

    With internships I would say it is down to friends and family encouragement on the large part, for me it was an older brother who had completed one.

    With a placement year, it shifts more toward the university’s encouragement, however if the placement is optional we still see a lot of students not bothering to take the opportunities that are available.

    We are obviously aiming to fill this gap by providing students with more information about the benefits of work experience and showing them the opportunities out there. However it will be a long change in attitudes unless there are fundamental high level changes.

    In order to ensure more students do placements and internships I think the change has to come from the very top, with universities and governments integrating work experience with degrees. The emphasis on research as part of an undergraduate degree should be diminishing, with an emphasis on readiness for work. In Germany 80% of students leave university with some work experience, compared to 30% in the UK, I think the UK’s graduates and the economy as a whole would be better off if we could boast those figures.

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