For the past three years, graduate opportunities in the telecommunications industry have been dire. The sector found itself saddled with huge debt, largely as a result of over-expansion without the returns to fund it, and recruitment was the first area to suffer. But things are finally picking up, according to Dave Flemming, associate director at recruiter Badenoch & Clark. "A lot of changes have been taking place, predominantly because businesses have focused on getting themselves into a position where City analysts will have faith in them again."
Also responsible for the market becoming more buoyant has been the introduction of broadband and more recently, 3G technologies, which have lead to mobile telecommunications companies being able to offer exceptionally diverse products to the consumer. 3G provides more ambitious services such as video calls through your mobile phone and allows vast quantities of information to be processed, enabling new services such as maps that change according to your location to be developed. "We are finally starting to see some take up on 3G products and services and this is inevitably creating openings in the job market," confirms Flemming.
In fact, these are very exciting times for the telecommunications industry. Over the past few years, the sector has moved its focus from predominantly voice services to voice and data lifestyle products. Think picture messaging, video streaming and internet services. "One of the next things the sector is trying to do is get to the point where we download videos rather than go to the video shop," says Flemming. "This is just one example of the big convergence that's happening between media and telecommunications." For graduates, Flemming believes all this means more varied career opportunities.
Mark Blythe, joint managing director of the graduate publisher GTI, agrees. "The market is much perkier than it was even 12 months ago and some really exciting opportunities are coming up," he says.
Three main types of firm make up the industry: wire-free operators such as Orange, Vodafone and O2; fixed-line/cable companies such as BT and Cable & Wireless; and technology organisations such as Nokia and Ericsson. Other employers, including NTL and Reuters combine the disciplines associated with communications, media and technology into a single organisation.
Graduate opportunities can be divided into three main strands: engineering and IT; core business functions such as HR, finance, marketing and sales; and finally, consulting. Software and network engineers are particularly sought after - once a network is in place, it's the software that gives the network its look and applications. In hardware development, an electronics or electrical engineering background is desirable because design skills are often required.
Like most employers in the sector, BT stresses that engineering and IT graduates must also have good communication and teamwork skills. "The courses, by their very nature, tend to concentrate on technical aspects. But regardless of the area people work in within BT, they need good people skills," explains Liz Robinson, head of graduate recruitment. "This is because a lot of our work involves direct contact with customers, whether internal or external."
Robinson admits people with this balance are hard to come by. "We have difficulty in finding sufficient numbers of graduates who have the detailed technical knowledge we're after, along with the softer skills."
Also like most employers in the sector, BT finds it much easier to recruit graduates into core business functions, particularly HR and marketing. "But although there is an oversupply of such graduates, we are still very keen to attract the top talent and therefore welcome applications from people with potential," she says.
Both sets of graduates can apply to go onto BT's generic two- year graduate recruitment scheme. …