Riding the Graduate Program Wave

Having gone through the hard yards of a graduate program I have learnt a fair amount of the elements I believe constitute a strong graduate program. Obviously things can look very different from being a graduate to the graduate manager (or creator of the graduate program) but my experiences and experiences of those around me have led me to believe the following are really important – so important they are more of a must than a want.

– Rotation scheme – graduates should have the opportunity to work within a number of teams across a number of business functions. This has a number of advantages – the graduate has visibility over a number of business functions as opposed to a blinker view and the opportunity to grow experience/skills is greatly increased. Both of which provide a positive return for the company AND graduate.0

– Individual performance review – appraise people on personal performance – not on market levels. I have always been irked that a number of graduate programs reward graduates based on market increases (fluctuations) and not on personal performance or improvement. Should a graduate with 2 years industry experience who functions effectively as a full time engineer not be paid more than a green graduate straight out of a CompSci degree who takes time to adjust.

– Do not mis-represent the program or your company. Correctly managing the face of your graduate program and company will lead to longer term graduate placements. In short – if you advertise your program as a very different beast to what it is you will have a number of unhappy graduates who feel a sense of betrayal and chances are will leave.

– Provide a strong framework for graduates to communicate. Graduate communication provides an outlet for graduates to share information on experiences and work. In many cases this will tie in with the rotation scheme as graduates will share thoughts on teams and future career moves. Providing a strong framework for graduates allows them to feel part of the company culture and provides a level of graduate support. Isolating graduates reduces the effectiveness of a graduate program.

– Build a program around keeping graduates and developing them for the future. Graduate programs provide a positive opportunity to both graduates and the company. Graduates can form a strong foundation for the future of a company – if treated correctly and fostered through the early stages of their career these employees will become crucial to the future of the company. The graduate can build their talents/skills along with experience within a company that appreciates the importance of graduates – offering vendor training, support and career development.

– Do not view graduates as a cheap and temporary pack horse. In many IT firms graduates are simply used as “churn and burn” materials – as in they are brought in cheap, worked to the bone and burnt out then discarded as a new intake are accepted. This has 2 negative effects on the company – it develops a bad name within the graduate community and negatively effects future intakes lowering the level of quality of graduates applying.

Simply put – if you are looking at a number of a graduate positions trying to determine which is best for you – I would be looking at the above points and analysing which program offers the most important to you.

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