Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Apprentices, Yes (but No Riff-Raff): News

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Apprentices, Yes (but No Riff-Raff): News

Article excerpt

Firms ask for schemes to be targeted only at private school students. David Matthews reports.

Graduate recruiters have started running apprenticeship schemes in the hope of attracting promising young people from poor backgrounds - and of reducing their reliance on the alumni from a handful of Russell Group universities.

But some have been violating the spirit of such apprenticeships by attempting to advertise them only to private school pupils, a conference has heard.

Sarah-Jane McQueen, sales manager at the Milkround, a forum for graduate vacancies, told Times Higher Education that it was "common" for firms to ask for their apprenticeships to be advertised by email only to those in the private sector.

The practice was particularly prevalent in banking and finance, she added.

Ms McQueen said that some recruiters had introduced apprenticeships as a token gesture and wanted to ensure that they were open only "to people their sons and daughters go to school with".

However, she stressed that the Milkround did not allow this kind of targeted promotion.

She told the conference, Improving Graduate Employability, held in London on 7 November, that one "big four" firm had refused to work with the forum on apprentice recruitment after the forum declined to filter potential candidates by school type,

"How do we combat that ignor-ance, snobbery and elitism?" she asked delegates during a question-and-answer session.

Ms McQueen did not specify the industry to which she was referring in her comments.

Spokesmen for the "big four" accountancy firms - PwC, Deloitte, EY and KPMG - all denied engaging in such behaviour.

But her comments may alarm many in the week that Sir John Major, the former prime minister, warned that the influence of the privately educated or affluent middle class on the "upper echelons of power" was "truly shocking".

The conference also heard from Kate Purcell, emeritus professor at the Institute for Employment Research at the University of Warwick, who said that the teaching of employability skills at university had made the contest to secure graduate jobs "increasingly difficult" because recruiters had so many polished applicants to choose from. …

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