Byline: PENNY COTTEE
IT'S amazing how things have changed, says Andrea Murrell, director of recruitment consultancy Crone Corkill.
"Ten years ago we fought to persuade employers to consider graduates for secretarial roles but they weren't keen, believing all their PAs would suddenly want to run the company.
Now 'graduate' appears fairly often on the B lists of employers' requirements."
In today's marketplace employers have nothing to lose by asking for candidates with degrees. Whereas 15 years ago fewer than 20 per cent of school-leavers went to university, the figure is now around 43 per cent.
The Institute for Employment Studies says that despite the boom in graduates, vacancies for "traditional" graduate jobs have stagnated. Students have been forced to look at "non-traditional" roles, including secretarial and office-support positions.
Secretarial and admin recruiters back this up, reporting a marked increase in job hunters with higher education qualifications.
So does this influx of university-leavers make a degree more important for the secretarial workforce?
Corinne Bickford, executive principal of Queen's Business and Secretarial College, thinks not.
"Personality, skills and attitude are extremely important," she says. "The qualification alone doesn't necessarily make you a perfect employee and it certainly won't guarantee you more money.'" Janet McGlaughlin, operations director for recruitment consultants Pertemps, agrees. "If you have skills and experience you have just as much chance of going up the career ladder," she says.
"Attitude counts for a lot more [than a degree]."
The perception also still exists that people with university qualifications will not commit to a support role and will quickly move on. A spokesperson for the Institute of Qualified Private Secretaries, the professional organisation for secretaries, PAs and administrators, says: "Unless a graduate is aspiring to be a career secretary they will probably use the secretarial position as a stepping stone and not remain in the profession."
The view is not without foundation. Research carried out in 1999 by Executive PA magazine and the Work Foundation (formerly the Industrial Society) revealed that of the degree-holding secretaries reading the magazine, 53 per cent saw the job as a way to other roles and eight per cent knew it wasn't for them. …